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George Grey Turner

Born 1877
Died 1951

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English surgeon, born September 8, 1877, North Shields; died August 24, 1951.

Biography of George Grey Turner

George Grey Turner was probably born in Bank Chambers, Camden Street, North Shields. The premises are now occupied by the Magnesia Bank pub. He was educated privately and then studied at the Newcastle medical school of Durham University, where he graduated. After holding resident surgical posts at Newcastle, Turner continued his postgraduate studies in London and Vienna.

From 1899 he worked in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he belonged to the Royal Victoria Infirmary and was a protégé of Rutherford Morrison, professor of surgery at the university. Turner operated not only at the hospital, but in nursing-homes, houses and cottages in the district, thriving on the practical difficulties involved.

Later he became senior surgeon, 1914 lecturer, and from 1927 to 1934 he was professor of surgery at the University of Durham. Eventually, he was appointed professor of surgery at the Postgraduate Medical School, London, where he remained until he retired. Five years before his death, Grey Turner was made President of the International Society of Surgeons.

As a young surgeon, he travelled around the world, being received by the Pope, Mussolini, the King of Italy and King Alfonso of Spain. During the following decades, Grey Turner worked with early cancer research, and anticipated the development of chemotherapy ("We shall never overcome cancer by surgery: it will be something we will inject"). In 1925 he published an optimistic work entitled "Some encouragements in Cancer surgery".

Grey Turner served as a surgeon with the Royal Medical Corps during World War I. After the Battle of Cambrai, working in a British base hospital, he made one of the earliest attempts to remove a bullet from a soldier's heart. The bullet was never removed, but Grey Turner's surgical team saved the patient's life.

Turner was a short man who dressed shabbily and wore an ancient bowler on the back of his large head. He wore heavy boots with thick soles and his hands were encased in knitted mittens. His friends chaffed him, asking 'if he had come to mend the clock', but the kindly and courteous Turner never took offence. He used to cover his teacup with his bowler hat to keep the tea warm. He was much beloved by his colleagues and students.

We thank Louise Wiblin for information submitted.

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