Guy, William Augustus (DNB00)

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GUY, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS (1810–1885), statistician, was born in 1810 at Chichester, where his male ancestors for three generations had been medical men. Hayley, in his ‘Life of Romney,’ says of his grandfather, William Guy, that he won Cowper's heart at sight, and that Romney would have chosen, him as a model for a picture of the Saviour. Guy spent his early life with this grandfather and then went to Christ's Hospital, and for five years to Guy's. He won the Fother-gillian medal of the Medical Society of London in 1831 for the best essay on asthma, and afterwards entered at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where, after further study for two years at Heidelberg and Paris, he took his M.B. degree in 1837. In 1838 he was appointed professor of forensic medicine at King's College, London, in 1842 assistant-physician to King's College Hospital, and from 1846 to 1858 he was dean of the medical faculty. He early directed his attention to statistics, and was one of the honorary secretaries of the Statistical Society, from 1843 to 1868. In 1844 he gave important evidence before the Health of Towns Commission on the state of printing offices in London, and the consequent development of pulmonary consumption among printers. He took part in founding the Health of Towns Association, and was incessantly occupied in calling public attention to questions of sanitary reform by investigations (statistical and medical), lectures, and writings. He thus rendered valuable services in connection with the improvement of ventilation, the utilisation of sewage, the health of bakers and soldiers, and hospital mortality.

He edited the ‘Journal of the Statistical Society’ from 1852 to 1856, was vice-president 1869-72, and in 1873-5 he was president of the society. He was Croonian (1861), Lumleian (1868), and Harveian (1875) lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians, and was frequently censor and examiner of the college. In 1878 he was appointed one of the royal commissioners on penal servitude, and on criminal lunatics in 1879. In 1876-7 he was elected to the post of vice-president of the Royal Society.

Guy's ‘Principles of Forensic Medicine,’ first published in 1844, and frequently reedited, is now a standard work, the fourth and later editions having been edited by Dr. David Ferrier. Although often consulted in medico-legal cases he would never give evidence publicly, partly from over-sensitiveness, partly from want of confidence in juries. Guy retired from medical practice for many years before his death, retaining only his insurance work. His sympathies were broad, as were his political and religious views. He died in London on 10 Sept. 1885, aged 75.

Guy's larger works are: 1. 'R. Hooper's Physician's Vade-Mecum; enlarged and improved by W.A.G.,' 1842 (many subsequent editions). 2. 'Principles of Forensic Medicine,' 1844; 4th edition, 1875, edited by D. Ferrier. 3. T. Walker's 'Original,' edited with additions by W.A.G. 1875; another edition 1885. 4. 'Public Health; a Popular Introduction to Sanitary Science,' pt. i. 1870; pt. ii. 1874. 5. 'The Factors of the Unsound Mind, with special reference to the Plea of Insanity in Criminal Cases,' 1881. 6. 'John Howard's Winter's Journey,' 1882.

Guy published several lectures, and contributed many papers to the Statistical Society, including the 'Influence of Employments on Health,' 'The Duration of Life among different Classes,' 'Temperance and its relation to Mortality,' 'The Mortality of London Hospitals,' 'Prison Dietaries,' and 'John Howard's True Place in History.'

[Lancet, 19 Sept. 1885; Journ. of Statistical Soc. 1885, xlviii. 505, 650, 651.]

G. T. B.