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E000801 - Beck, Marcus (1843 - 1893)
Beck, Marcus (1843 - 1893)
Royal College of Surgeons of England
RCS: E000801
London : Royal College of Surgeons of England
Publication Date:
Obituary for Beck, Marcus (1843 - 1893), Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Plarr's Lives of the Fellows
Full Name:
Beck, Marcus
Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
21 May 1893
Place of Death:
MRCS July 26th 1865

FRCS June 10th 1869

MB BS Lond (Scholarship in Medicine) 1867

MS (with Gold Medal) 1868
Born at Isleworth of the same Quaker family that produced Lord Lister and Rickman J Godlee, as is shown in the following genealogy. Edward Beck married twice, his second wife being Susannah Lucas, of Hitchin, who numbered among her ancestors Thomas Young (1773-1829), physician, physicist, and Egyptologist. She died at the age of 84, a few years before her son, Marcus. Marcus Beck was educated at Queenwood College, Hants, under George Edmonstone whose science masters were Frankland, Tyndall, and Debus; and afterwards at Hitchin, in the school kept by Arthur Abbott. He entered the University of Glasgow in 1860, where Joseph Lister, his first cousin once removed, was Professor of Surgery, and with him he lived during his residence in the University. He returned to London in 1863, entered University College Hospital, and was appointed in due course House Surgeon to Sir John Eric Erichsen (qv). He also served as Physician’s Assistant to Sir William Jenner and to Dr C J Hare, and acted as Demonstrator of Anatomy under Professor Viner Ellis (qv). He was appointed Surgical Registrar to the hospital in 1870 and at once established his reputation by the elaborate analysis of surgical cases which he published in the *University College Hospital Reports*. During this period, and with the assistance of S G Shattock (qv) and Charles Stonham (qv), he catalogued the surgical pathological specimens in the Museum of University College. He was appointed Assistant Surgeon to University College Hospital in 1873; in 1875 he succeeded Christopher Heath (qv) as Teacher of Operative Surgery; in 1883 he became Professor of Clinical Surgery; and in 1885 was elected Surgeon to the Hospital and Professor of Surgery in succession to John Marshall (qv). He was elected a Member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1890, and a Member of the Court of Examiners in 1892. He was then practising at 30 Wimpole Street. He died unmarried at Isleworth on Sunday, May 21st, 1893, after suffering for twenty years from diabetes, and was interred in the Friends’ burial ground at Brentford End. Beck became most widely known as the Editor of the 8th and 9th editions of Erichsen’s *Science and Art of Surgery*, which appeared respectively in 1884 and 1888. He had been closely associated with Erichsen and had acted as his private assistant since 1869. He most skilfully included recent advances in the science of surgery and surgical pathology, including the pathology of wounds and septic diseases. The researches of Pasteur and Koch with the work of Lister were thus made known to all students of surgery, for the two volumes were re-issued in America and were translated into German and into Russian. Beck was an inspiring teacher, who was equally good at the bedside and in the lecture theatre. He soon gathered round him assistants who were to become distinguished in surgery: William Meredith, Stanley Boyd, Victor Horsley, and Raymond Johnson were his pupils. His lectures were models of lucidity and were in the highest degree stimulating. An abscess, an ulcer, or a fracture were to him living things and he made the processes of disintegration and repair actually visible to the mind’s eye of his students. He taught that a ground-work of scientific pathology was the only safe basis of surgical practice. The Pathological Society of London was in its full vigour at the time as the focus for the study of morbid anatomy, for bacteriology had not yet come into its own. The Society set up a ‘Morbid Growths Committee’, Beck was elected a member and thus had the opportunity of advancing the systematic histological examination of obscure specimens exhibited before the Society. He was joint author of the *Report on Pyoemia* in 1879. Beck contributed articles on “Diseases of the Kidney and Secondary Affections of the Lower Urinary Tract, misnamed Surgical Kidney,” to Volume V of Reynold’s *System of Medicine*. He also wrote on “Erysipelas” for the 1st edition of Quain’s *Dictionary of Medicine*, and on “Diseases of the Breast” for Heath’s *Dictionary of Surgery*. Beck was a man of most attractive personality, good looking and somewhat cynical. He lived retired at Isleworth, rarely going into society on account of prolonged ill health, though he continued to attend the hospital and to fill the calls of an ever-increasing practice nearly to the end of his life. There is a good portrait of him at the Royal Society of Medicine and a photograph in the Council Album at the Royal College of Surgeons. Mr Roger Beck gave an endowment in 1914 to the Royal Society of Medicine as a tribute to the memory of his brother. It was utilized to establish an experimental laboratory where David Thomson and John Gordon Thomson carried out an able research by cultivating living tissues *in vitro*. After the war it was decided to discontinue the laboratory and use the room for books issued before the beginning of the nineteenth century. This room is known as “The Marcus Beck” Library, and the portrait hangs over the fireplace. Publications: “Descriptive Catalogue of Specimens Illustrating Surgical Pathology in the Museum of University College Hospital, London.” – Part I, edited in collaboration with S G Shattock, 1881; Part II, in collaboration with C Stonham, 1887. “Galvano-puncture of Aortic Aneurysm.” – *Lancet*, 1873, ii, 550. “Three Cases of Trephining for Haemorrhage from the Middle Meningeal Artery.” – *Med. Times and Gaz*., 1877, ii, 199. “Case of Nephrolithotomy.” – *Trans. Clin. Soc.*, 1882, xv, 103. *The Science and Art of Surgery*, by John Eric Erichsen, 8th ed revised and edited by Marcus Beck. 2 vols., 1884, and 9th ed, 1888.
F. T. Roberts

*Proc. Roy. Soc. Med.*, 1914, vii, 1

*Lancet*, 1893, i, 1273, 1843

*Brit. Med. Jour*., 1893, i, 1125, 1198, 1355 and 1923, i
Copyright (c) The Royal College of Surgeons of England
Plarr's Lives of the Fellows
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Root/Lives of the Fellows/E000000-E000999/E000800-E000899
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