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Biographical entry Savin, Lewis Herbert (1901 - 1983)

MRCS 1923; FRCS 1926; MD London 1930; MS 1934; LRCP 1923; MRCP 1927.

26 March 1901
11 July 1983


Lewis Herbert Savin was born in London on 26 March 1901. His parents were missionaries who had fled from China at the time of the Boxer rebellion a few months before his birth. Shortly after, his father and mother returned to the hospital that his father had founded at Chao Tung in Yunnan. He used to watch his father at work and early resolved on a medical career. This background would seem to have had an influence on his way of thinking which, though original and decisive, was often expressed obliquely and always with a diffidence and self-effacement which could be misunderstood by those who did not know him well.

He returned to England at the age of twelve to be educated at Christ's Hospital. He won a Warneford Scholarship to King's College Hospital Medical School in 1918 and qualified with the Conjoint Diploma in 1923. His first appointment was as house surgeon at the Royal Eye Hospital. The next five years were spent in general medicine and surgery during which time he gained his FRCS, MRCP and the degrees MD and MS; for the latter he was awarded the University Medal in ophthalmology. His first consultant appointments were at the Metropolitan and Whipps Cross Hospitals; later he was appointed to King's College, Maudsley Hospital and the Royal Eye Hospital.

He spent the war years at Horton Emergency Hospital where he pioneered research into eye injuries from non-ferrous alloys, the basis of his Hunterian Professorship in 1943. He was a prodigious worker tackling long operating lists, publishing papers, speaking at meetings and teaching students, and those at King's showed their appreciation by twice inviting him to become President of their Listerian Society. In 1953 he was appointed a Fellow of King's College, London. The Savin Ophthalmic Library at King's is named in his honour.

He was elected President of the Faculty of Ophthalmology in 1957, Vice-President of the Ophthalmic Society of the United Kingdom 1957 and Vice-President of the Ophthalmic Section of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was examiner for the DOMS and DO and MS in the University of London.

In 1931 he married Mary Helen Griffith and they had two sons, one of whom, John, is a consultant dermatologist, and a daughter. He retired to his farm in Sussex where he introduced many unorthodox solutions to farming problems he encountered.

He died on 11 July 1983 shortly after his wife, but his death was hastened by his being set upon by a gang of hooligans late one night whilst on his way home. They left him lying in the road semi-conscious and he suffered a series of heart attacks that led to his death.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1983, 287, 369; Brit J ophthalmol 1983, 67, 842; The Times 16 July 1983].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England