Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Boyce, Rubert William

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BOYCE, Sir RUBERT WILLIAM (1863–1911), pathologist and hygienist, born on 22 April 1863 at Osborne Terrace, Clapham Road, London, was second son of Robert Henry Boyce, originally of Carlow, Ireland, an engineer who was at one time principal surveyor of British diplomatic and consular buildings in China, by his wife Louisa, daughter of Dr. Neligan, a medical practitioner in Athlone.

After attending a preparatory school at Rugby, and then a school in Paris, where an aunt, Henrietta Boyce, resided, Rubert began the study of medicine at University College, London. He graduated M.B. in 1889 at London University, and in 1892 was appointed assistant professor of pathology at University College. In the same year he published 'A Text-book of Morbid Histology' and made important contributions to the research work of the laboratory. In 1894 he was appointed to the newly endowed chair of pathology in University College, Liverpool, then a constituent of the Victoria University, Manchester. At Liverpool he quickly organised a laboratory of scientific pathology on modern lines. In 1898 his department of pathology was installed in a fine building erected for it, and at the same time he was appointed bacteriologist to the Liverpool corporation.

Meanwhile in the senate of the college he powerfully advocated the development and expansion of the college into a fully equipped and self-centred university. As an officer both of the college and of the municipality he was able in the double capacity effectually to promote the early success of Liverpool University, which was finally established in 1902. Four endowed chairs in the new university owed their creation mainly to him, namely, those of bio-chemistry, of tropical medicine, of comparative pathology, and of medical entomology, as well as the university lectureship on tropical medicine.

In 1897 Boyce visited Canada with the British Association as a secretary to the section of physiology. Thenceforth he cherished the ideal of bringing the dominion and the home country into closer relations. By his influence a fellowship for young medical graduates from the colonies was endowed in the Liverpool University. In 1898 Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, then secretary of state for the colonies, urged the school of medicine at Liverpool to establish a department for the special study of tropical diseases. Accordingly Boyce, in conjunction with (Sir) Alfred Jones [q. v. Suppl. II], founded the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, of which (Sir) Ronald Ross became director, a post which was soon associated with an endowed chair at the university. In 1901 Boyce took the lead in organising with an unfailing optimism a series of expeditions sent by the school to the tropics to investigate diseases in their habitat there. In six years there were despatched seventeen expeditions, which, though costly in life and money, were rich in fruitful knowledge. In 1905 Boyce went himself to New Orleans and British Honduras to examine epidemics of yellow fever.

Boyce's zealous efforts were generally recognised. He was made a fellow of University College, London. In 1902 he was elected F.R.S. In 1906 he was knighted. He became a member of the African advisory board of the colonial office, and served on the royal commissions on sewage disposal and on tuberculosis. In September 1906, after a spell of exceptionally heavy work, he suffered a stroke of paralysis, but after a year partially resumed his university work, although he was permanently crippled. In 1909 he visited the West Indies to report at the instance of the government on yellow fever, and in 1910 he went to West Africa for the like purpose. In his enforced withdrawal from laboratory work he sought to arouse sympathy with the problems of tropical sanitation by writing for the general reader accounts of the bearing of recent biological discoveries on the health and prosperity of tropical communities. His 'Mosquito or Man' (1909; 3rd edit. 1910), 'Health Progress and Administration in the West Indies' (1910; 2nd edit. 1910), and 'Yellow Fever and its Prevention' (1911) all influenced public opinion. The latest of his projects was the formation at Liverpool of a bureau of yellow fever. The first number of its bulletin was sent to press just before his death. He died of an apoplectic seizure on 16 June 1911, at Park Lodge, Croxteth Road, Liverpool, and was buried at Bebington cemetery, Wirral, Cheshire.

Boyce married in 1901 Kate Ethel, (d. 1902), daughter of William Johnston, a Liverpool shipowner, of Woodslee, Bromborough, Cheshire, and left issue one daughter.

The success of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine was the aim and reward of Boyce's later life. Besides the works mentioned, Boyce wrote many papers on pathology and tropical sanitation from 1892 onwards for the Royal Pathological and other scientific societies, and he was joint author with Dr. J. H. Abram of 'Handbook of Anatomical Pathology,' published in 1895.

[The Times, 19 June 1911; Proc. Royal Soc. obit. notices, 1911; private information.]

C. S. S.