Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Sir William Hales Hingston

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 7
Sir William Hales Hingston

by James Joseph Walsh


Canadian physician and surgeon, b. at Hinchinbrook near Huntingdon, Quebec, June 29, 1829; d. at Montreal, 19 February, 1907. His father, a native of Ireland, was lieutenant-colonel in the Royal 100th Regiment (The Dublins) and died when his son was only eighteen months old, leaving the family in debt on an estate granted to him for military service. Young Hingston was brought up in poverty, but his mother succeeded in solving her difficulties so well as to be able to send him to the Sulpician College at Montreal. Although he had carried off a prize in every subject in his first year he had to become a drug clerk in order to earn his living. His pocket-money was spent for lessons in the classics. Then he took up the study of medicine, still continuing his occupation, and graduated at McGill University in 1851. He had nearly £100 saved, so he at once sailed on a small vessel to Edinburgh, then famous for its teaching of surgery. He became a favourite of both Simpson and Syme, and Sir James Y. Simpson wanted to retain him as his assistant. Before his return at the end of two years young Hingston had with the expenditure of a very small amount of money visited every important medical centre in Europe, attracting attention everywhere by his talent and industry.

He soon acquired a large practice in Montreal, to which his self-sacrifice during the cholera epidemic greatly contributed. In 1860 he became surgeon to the Hôtel-Dieu. He was the first surgeon in America to perform a resection of a diseased elbow and several other important operations. In 1882 he became professor of clinical surgery at Victoria University, Montreal. After its union with Victoria, he occupied this chair in Laval University. In 1875 he became Mayor of Montreal and was re-elected by acclamation, but declined a third term. For the wise discharge of his duties he received the thanks of Governor-General Dufferin. He became an acknowledged leader of American surgery and delivered the address on surgery in America before the British Medical Association in 1892. In 1895 he was knighted by Queen Victoria; in 1896 he was called to the Senate of Canada. Pius IX made him a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, Leo XIII conferred on him the Cross "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice", and he received honorary degrees from four universities. In 1885 he published "The Climate of Canada and its Relation to Health".

The Montreal Medical Journal (March, 1907); The Canadian Messenger (April, 1907).

JAMES J. WALSH