Stokes, William (1839-1900) (DNB01)

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STOKES, Sir WILLIAM (1839–1900), surgeon, was second son of Dr. William Stokes (1804–1878) [q. v.] and Mary, second daughter of John Black of Glasgow. Margaret Stokes [q. v. Suppl.] was his sister. He was born at 50 York Street, Dublin, on 10 March 1839, and was educated at the royal school, Armagh, and at Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. in 1859, and M.B., M.D., and M.Ch. in 1863, with a thesis on 'The Diseases and Injuries of the Knee-joint.' Stokes received his professional training at Dublin, in the school of physic at Trinity College, in the Carmichael school, and at the Meath and Richmond hospitals. He was awarded the gold medal of the Pathological Society of Dublin in 1861, becoming its president in 1881. He was admitted a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in 1862, and a fellow of this body in 1874. After he had received in Dublin he spent his medical qualifications in Dublin he spent two years in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Prague, where his father's reputation procured him the personal friendship of the most renowned teachers in those cities.

In 1864 Stokes settled in practice in Clare Street, Dublin, where he remained until 1878, when he moved to his father's house, 6 Merrion Square North. In 1864 he was elected surgeon to the Meath Hospital, in succession to Josiah Smyly. This post he resigned in 1868, upon his appointment as surgeon to the House of Industry Hospitals (which included the Richmond Hospital); there he performed the greater part of the operative work, which justly placed him at the head of the surgical profession in Ireland. He was for some time lecturer on surgery in the Carmichael school of medicine, and on 24 Dec. 1872 he was elected professor of surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland. Here he served the office of president in 1886-7, when he gave a magnificent banquet in the hall of the college to celebrate the jubilee of Queen Victoria. In 1882 Stokes delivered the address on surgery at the jubilee meeting of the British Medical Association held at Worcester, its birthplace. The address confirmed the opinion that had long been held as to the greatness of his oratorical powers. In 1886 he was knighted by the Earl of Aberdeen, then lord-lieutenant of Ireland. In 1888 he returned to the Meath Hospital as surgeon, resigning a similar position at the Richmond Hospital, and in 1892 he was appointed surgeon-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria in Ireland.

Stokes was a governor of the Westmoreland Lock Hospital, a consulting surgeon to the National Children's Hospital, a member of the council of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, and he was for a number of years one of the representatives of the college on the conjoint committee which managed the examinations conducted by the College of Physicians and the College of Surgeons in Dublin. He took much interest in the Royal Academy of Medicine, and for many years occupied a seat on the surgical council of the society, in addition to the position he held as secretary for foreign correspondence. Stokes also acted at various times as an examiner in surgery at the university of Oxford, at the Queen's University in Ireland, and at the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in Dublin.

Early in 1900 Stokes left Ireland for South Africa, to assume the office of consulting surgeon to the British military forces which were then engaged in Natal in fighting against the Boers. While still actively occupied with the duties of that responsible office he fell ill and died of pleurisy on 18 Aug. 1900, in the base hospital at Pietermaritzburg. He was buried two days afterwards in the military cemetery at Fort Napier, Natal.

He married, in 1869, Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. John Lewis Moore, D.D., senior fellow and vice-provost of Trinity College, Dublin, by whom he had one son, now a lieutenant in the royal engineers, and two daughters.

Stokes, like many other members of his distinguished family, was a man of the utmost versatility. A good surgeon and a first-rate teacher, he was also an orator and a master of English composition. He was besides a cultivated musician, possessed of a fine tenor voice, which was often heard in private society at Dublin. As a surgeon he was both brilliant and successful, and his name is associated with a particular method of amputation at the knee, which has the merit of leaving untouched the insertion of the great quadriceps muscle.

Stokes published a life of his father, Dr. William Stokes, in the 'Masters of Medicine series, London, 1898. His other writings are scattered in the various medical periodicals.

[Sir Charles Cameron's History of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; private information.]

D’A. P.