Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mackenzie, Morell

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MACKENZIE, Sir MORELL (1837–1892), physician, descended from the Scottish family of Mackenzie of Scatwell, in the parish of Contin, Ross-shire, was the eldest son of Stephen Mackenzie, a surgeon. He was born at Leytonstone on 7 July 1837, and was educated at Br. Greig's school in Walthamstow. His father was killed by a fall from his carriage in 1851, and soon afterwards he entered the Union Insurance Office as a clerk, but he quickly resigned the post in order to study medicine at the London Hospital. In 1858 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and afterwards spent one year at Paris and another in Vienna. In 1859 he visited Czermak at Pesth, and learnt from him the use of the laryngoscope, an instrument invented by Manuel Garcia, the great singing-master, which Czermak was then bringing into clinical use. About the same time Mackenzie spent a few months in Italy. After his return to England he held several of the minor appointments on the staff of the London Hospital, graduating as bachelor of medicine at the London University in 1861, and taking the degree of doctor or medicine in the following year. The Jacksonian prize of the Royal College of Surgeons was awarded to him in 1863 for an essay 'On the Pathology and Treatment of Diseases of the Larynx: the diagnostic indications to include the appearances as seen in the living person.' To this subject he subsequently devoted his whole life. He was appointed assistant physician to the London Hospital on 5 Sept. 1866, and in he became full physician there, a post which he resigned a few months afterwards. In 1863 the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat was founded in King Street, Golden Square, chiefly through his exertions, and in its management he at once took a leading part.

Mackenzie rapidly obtained a large private practice, principally in the treatment of diseases of the throat, but his large practice and repeated attacks of asthma did not prevent him from publishing numerous books and articles. He was the first Englishman who became expert in operations on the larynx and adjacent parts, and his acknowledged eminence in this capacity led to his being called upon in 1887 to attend at Berlin the crown prince of Germany, afterwards the Emperor Frederick HI, who was attacked by cancer in the throat. Endowed by nature with great manipulative skill, constant practice had rendered him a master in the use of the laryngoscope and of the laryngeal forceps; but he was also by nature somewhat indiscreet, and his mind was essentially polemical. In the early stages of a disease so insidious as cancer there are always sufficient grounds to base diametrically opposite views of the cause producing the patient's symptoms. In the case of the emperor, of Germany, Mackenzie chose to take the more hopeful view, stating at the time of his first visit to Berlin that it was impossible to decide on the nature of the disease. The English physician doubtless found on reaching the German court that he was the object of some jealousy, and this feeling was rapidly intensified by the aggressive manner which he assumed in self-defence. The outcome of the relations thus strained was a violent and unseemly quarrel between Mackenzie and his German colleagues, in the course of which insinuations were made entirely unworthy of the high positions held by the contending parties. Professor von Bergmann, one of the chief German surgeons in attendance, retired from the case on 30 April 1888, and on 15 June following the patient died. Mackenzie was so ill-advised as to publish details which should have been kept secret. The German doctors issued a medical account of the illness. Mackenzie replied in a popular work called 'Frederick the Noble,' which appeared in October 1888. It is, however, only just to him to state that the publication of his book was due to representations made to him from influential quarters, representations so strong as to lead him, perhaps against his better judgment, to abandon the purely medical report he had at first projected, and to substitute for it a popular and singularly injudicious treatise, which brought upon him the censure of the Royal College of Surgeons on 10 Jan. 1889.

If it had not been for this episode in his career, Mackenzie would have been remembered as an able practitioner in a special department of medicine, endowed with great mechanical skill and power of invention. He was rewarded for his services at Berlin with the distinction of knight bachelor, conferred upon him in September 1887; and the Emperor Frederick decorated him, during the course of his illness, with the grand cross of the Hohenzollern order.

Mackenzie lived in Harley Street, London, and there died on 3 Feb. 1892. He is buried in the graveyard of St. Mary's Church at Wargrave in Berkshire. He married in 1863 Margaret, daughter of John Bouch of Bickley Park, Kent, and left issue.

Portraits appeared in 'Contemporary Medical Men,' vol. li. Leicester, 1888, and in the 'Journal of Laryngology,' vol. vi. Mackenzie published: 'Manual of Diseases of the Throat and Nose,' 2 vols. 8vo, London ; vol. i. 1880; vol. ii. 1884. A most comprehensive work, excellently written ; it is the standard text-book on the subject, and has been translated into German and French. Minor works are : 1. 'Treatment of Hoarseness and Loss of Voice,' 12mo, London, 1863; 2nd edit. 8vo, 1868; 3rd edit. 1871. 2. 'On the Pathology and Treatment of Diseases of the Larynx,' Jacksonian prize essay, the manuscript of which is preserved in the library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, bound in three volumes with an appendix. The drawings which accompany the essay are some of the first representations of the human larynx as it appears during life. 3. 'Use of the Laryngoscope,' 8vo, London, 1865; 2nd edit. 1866; 3rd edit. 1871. 4. 'Essays on Growths in the Larynx,' 8vo, London, 1874. 5. 'Diphtheria, its Nature and Treatment,' 8vo, 1879. 6. 'Hay Fever and Paroxvsmal Sneezing,' London, 8vo, 1884; 6th edit. 1887. 7. 'Hygiene of the Vocal Organs,' London, 12mo, 1886. 8. ' The Fatal Illness of Frederick the Noble,' London, 8vo, 1888. 9. 'Essays,' with portrait, London, 1893.

[Obituary notices in the Journal of Laryngology 1892, vi. 95-108; Internal Centralblatt Sir Laryngologie, Rhinologie u.s.w. Marz, 1892, 8. 411-17; the English medical journals for February 1 892. There is an impartial resume of the German controversy in the Times of 16 Oct. 1888, p. 6. Information kindly supplied by the Rev. H. R. Haweis, M.A., who is preparing a biography.]

D’A. P.