Sir William Cheyne, 1st Baronet

Sir William Cheyne, 1st Baronet

Sir William Watson, 1st Baronet Cheyne KCMG CB FRCS (December 14, 1852, off Hobart, Tasmania – April 19, 1932, Fetlar, Shetland Islands, Scotland) was a British surgeon and bacteriologist, who pioneered the use of antiseptical surgical methods in the United Kingdom, as well as abdominal surgery.

Cheyne was born at sea off Tasmania. He came from a humble background. His father, Andrew Cheyne, was a captain in the mercantile marine from Ollaberry, Shetland. His mother Eliza, the daughter of the Rev. William Watson, died in 1856, leaving Willam Cheyne to be brought up by his grandfather, the Rev. William Watson, and latterly by his aunt and uncle-in-law, [ [ "Sir William Watson Cheyne"] Retrieved 1 May 2008] in Fetlar. In 1864 he was sent to attend Aberdeen Grammar School until 1868, when he went to King's College, Aberdeen, studying Greek, Latin, English, and Mathematics. By 1870 his uncle and aunt had desired him to be trained for the church, but as his father, his own inclination was for the sea. With the idea that if he became a doctor he could join the navy, he entered the University of Edinburgh where to study medicine in May 1871.cite journal | author = W. B | year = 1932| month = Dec. | title = Sir William Watson Cheyne, Baronet. 1852-1932 | journal = Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society | volume = 1| issue = 1 | pages = 26–30 | doi = 10.1098/rsbm.1932.0007] He received degrees in surgery and medicine from there in 1875.

Cheyne became the house surgeon to Joseph Lister, the British founder of antiseptic medicine, in 1876. Bacteriology had been much researched in France and Germany in the 1870s and 80s, but little work was done in the field in Britain. Lister was one of the few pioneers of its study in Britain. In 1877, the two took positions at King's College Hospital, where Cheyne served as an assistant surgeon, and later as surgeon from 1880 to 1917 and also as a professor of surgery from 1891 to 1917. He was a devoted follower of Lister and his antiseptic surgical methods. Cheyne was greatly inspired by the work of German bacteriologist Robert Koch, and had his work "Untersuchungen über die Aetiologie der Wundinfenktionskrankheiten" (1878) translated for the New Sydenham Society in 1880, which greatly enhanced the acceptance of bacteriology in Britain. He had a work published in 1882, "Antiseptic Surgery: Its Principles, Practice, History and Results", and later in 1885 a book, "Lister and His Achievements". The work he did in his early career on bacteria and preventitive medicine was highly influenced by Koch, and in Spring 1886, Cheyne visited Koch's laboratory in Berlin and studied his methods. ["Cheyne, Sir William Watson, 1st Baronet." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006.] He undertook many trials on giving doses of tuberculin. He reported his findings to the RMCS in April 1891. He found that giving repeated doses improves the conditions of patients, but rarely acts as a cure. His paper was recognized as the first important contribution to the topic in Britain. [cite book | author = Hunting, Penelope | date = January 1, 2002 | title = The History of the Royal Society of Medicine | publisher = RSM Press | id = ISBN 1-85315-497-0 | pages = 150]

Cheyne served as a consulting surgeon for the British military in South Africa from 1900 to 1901. In 1910 he was made the Honorary Surgeon-in-Ordinary to King George V. With the outbreak of world War I he became a consulting surgeon to the Royal Navy in 1914, and in 1915 was for a short time the temporary surgeon general, RN. He was later made Surgeon Rear-Admiral and KCMG. He was made a baronet in 1908, and having retired from active practice, he was elected in 1917 as a Unionist Member of Parliament (MP) for Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities [ Historical list of MPs: E (part 1)] ] and for the Combined Scottish Universities in 1918, holding the seat until he stepped down at the 1922 general election.cite book |last=Craig |first=F. W. S. |authorlink= F. W. S. Craig |title=British parliamentary election results 1918-1949 |origyear=1969 |edition= 3rd edition |year=1983 |publisher= Parliamentary Research Services |location=Chichester |id= ISBN 0-900178-06-X] He was appointed as Lord Lieutenant of Orkney and Shetland in 1919. Cheyne left London for good in 1922 and retired to Fetlar and resigned his position as lord lieutenant in 1930. He died in 1932 after a prolonged illness.


* "Antiseptic Surgery: Its Principles, Practice, History and Results" (1882)
* "Lister and His Achievements" (1885)
* "Manual of the Antiseptic Treatment of Wounds" (1885)
* "Manual of Surgical Treatment", 7 vol. (1899–1903; with F. Burghard)


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