- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Sir William Arbuthnot Lane

Born  1856
Died  1943

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Scottish surgeon, born 1856, Fort George, Scotland; died 1943.

Biography of Sir William Arbuthnot Lane

Sir William Arbuthnot Lane was a Scot from Inverness who trained and later worked at Guy's Hospital in London, becoming a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He was later surgeon at Guy's Hospital and at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, and consulting surgeon to the French Hospital.

Lane devised a number of operative procedures that bear his name Lane is known for his attempts at improving alignment of fractures by using internal fixation. He started off using silver wire, then he used steel screws and this was followed by the use of plates and screws. These are called Lane’s plates and screws.

However, he is best remembered for having described the so-called Lane’s kinks which is an obstructive twist of the ileum.

Lane was said to have been eccentric, regarding humans as machines and performed total colectomies as a cure for "auto-intoxication". He also initiated the programmes of health education that are present today. Lane wrote columns in the newspapers, held public lectures and improved the distribution of fruit and vegetables.

"The man whose first question after what he considers to be a right course of action has presented itself, is "What will people say?" is not the man to do anything at all."
Quoted by W. E. Tanner in Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane, "Lane as I Knew Him"

"If everyone believes a thing it is probably untrue!"
Quoted by W. E. Tanner in Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane, "Genesis"

"If you get a rude letter, always send a polite one back. It's much better."
Quoted by W. E. Tanner in Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane,
"Lane as I Knew Him"

"Mr. Lane, how do you get your doctors to submit their patients to such treatment?" His answer was: "Well, you see, some of them are intelligent!"
Quoted by W. E. Tanner in Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane,
"Lane as a Ships Surgeon"


  • Manual of operative surgery. London, 1886.
  • Antrectomy as a treatment for chronic purulent otitis media.
    Archives of Otology, New York, 1892, 21: 118-124.
    Masteoidectomy for the efficient drainage of the results of middle ear suppuration.
  • A method of treating simple oblique fractures of the tibia and fibula more efficient than those in common use.
    Transactions of the Clinical Society of London, 1894, 27: 167-175.
    Lane’s method of “osteo-synthesis” in the treatment of fractures – the perfect re-apposition of the afected parts by means of operative intervention.
  • Clinical remarks on the operative treatment of fractures.
    British Medical Journal, 1907, 1: 1037-1038.
    Lane’s plates and screws for union of fractures.
  • The operative treatment of chronic constipation.
    London, J. Nisbet, 1909; 4th edition, 1918.
    Lane’s operation for chronic intestinal stasis – Lane’s kink – consisted in short-circuiting the intestine.
  • Cleft palate and hare lip. London; 3. Edition, 1916.
  • Blazing the health trail. London, 1929.
  • Wm Wale:
    Bibliography of the published writings (1883-1912) of Sir William Arbuthnot Lane. 1914.
  • Ann Dally:
    Fantasy Surgery, 1880-1930: With special reference to Sir William Arbuthnot Lane.
    Amsterdam/Atlanta, Georgia, 1996.
    The availability of safer surgery at the end of the nineteenth century led to an increase in operations for diseases’ that existed only in the minds of the doctors and their patients. This volume analyses the theories behind this ‘fantasy surgery’ and the motives of those who performed the operations.

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