Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Savory, William Scovell

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SAVORY, Sir WILLIAM SCOVELL (1826–1895), surgeon, son of William Henry Savory, and his second wife, Mary Webb, was born on 30 Nov. 1826 in the parish of St. Mary-at-Hill in the city of London. His father was churchwarden of the parish. He became a student of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1844, and was admitted a member of the College of Surgeons in 1847. He graduated M.B. in the university of London in 1848, having obtained gold medals in physiology, surgery, and midwifery, as well as honours in medicine. In 1849 he was appointed demonstrator of anatomy and of operative surgery in the medical school of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and held this office till 21 June 1859. On 21 Sept. 1850 it was resolved by the committee of the school that a tutor should be appointed to supervise the studies of students reading for degrees in the university of London, and Savory was nominated to the office, which he also held till 1859. He attained the fellowship of the College of Surgeons in 1852, and in 1859 was elected lecturer on general anatomy and physiology at St. Bartholomew's in succession to Sir James Paget. Savory's lectures, though altogether different in style from those of his predecessor, were no less admired. In a paper ‘On the Valves of the Heart,’ which he read before the Royal Society on 18 Dec. 1851, he thoroughly explained the structure, connections, and arrangements of the valves. He contributed to the Royal Society's ‘Proceedings’ another paper ‘On the Development of Striated Muscular Fibres in Mammalia.’ He published in 1857 an account of experiments ‘On the Relative Temperature of Arterial and Venous Blood.’ In 1858 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1861 he became assistant surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and in April 1867 surgeon, an office which he held till 1891, when he was appointed consulting surgeon and a governor of the hospital. He was elected lecturer on surgery in 1869, and held the office for twenty years. The lectureship is usually divided, but from 1879 to 1889, at the particular request of his colleagues, Savory was sole lecturer. The emolument which he received for his clinical duties and lectures in 1881–2 exceeded 2,000l., probably the largest income ever received for surgical teaching in London. He spoke as a great authority, delivering final judgment on the problems of surgery.

Savory became a member of the council of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1877, and in 1885 was elected president, and held the office for four years, the longest tenure in the history of that college. He was opposed to any change in the constitution of the college, and successfully resisted much agitation in that direction. He was Hunterian professor of comparative anatomy and physiology from 1859 to 1861, and in 1884 gave the Bradshaw lecture at the College of Surgeons, on ‘The Pathology of Cancer,’ a criticism of the prevalent theories on the subject. He delivered the oration in praise of John Hunter (1728–1793) [q. v.] in 1887, an admirable exposition of Hunter's work and character, and perhaps the most interesting of Savory's published works. In 1879 he delivered at Cork an address on surgery which attracted much attention at the time. It was a declaration against the antiseptic method of Lister, and will always be interesting as the last public expression by a prominent surgeon of opposition to the now universal method of modern surgery. He became surgeon-extraordinary to the queen in 1887, and in 1890 was created a baronet. He served upon the existing royal commission on vaccination, and in 1892 on the Gresham University commission. He died after a short illness on 4 March 1895, at his house, 66 Brook Street, Grosvenor Square. Savory married, on 30 Nov. 1854, Louisa Frances Borradaile, who died in 1868, and left an only son, Sir Borradaile Savory, rector of St. Bartholomew's the Great, who succeeded as second baronet.

Savory's features and expression were dignified and full of force, and his voice distinct and pleasing. He never spared his opponents, and was usually victorious in verbal controversies. His surgical practice, though considerable, never attained such dimensions as to prevent him from giving much time to the affairs of the College of Surgeons, and he had for many years more influence in them than any of his contemporaries. His portrait, by Mr. Walter Ouless, was subscribed for by his colleagues and friends in 1891, and hangs in the great hall of St. Bartholomew's Hospital; but it fails to present the firmness of character which was one of his chief qualities. His bust was executed by Mr. Hope Pinker for thirty-five gentlemen who had been his house surgeons.

Besides the publications already specified, Savory published in the ‘St. Bartholomew's Hospital Reports’ eleven papers on surgical subjects, and wrote the memoirs of Sir William Lawrence [q. v.] and of Frederick Carpenter Skey [q. v.] He gave four lectures at the Royal Institution on ‘Life and Death,’ which were published in 1863, and contributed to the ‘Transactions’ of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society. He also wrote several brief but interesting essays on points of surgery in the ‘Lancet.’

[Works; Memoir by Howard Marsh in St. Bartholomew's Hospital Reports, vol. xxxi.; personal knowledge.]

N. M.