Lives of the fellows

Arthur Gamgee

b.10 October 1841 d.29 March 1909
MD Edin(1862) Hon LLD Hon DSc Vict FRS(1872) FRCP(1896)

Arthur Gamgee was born at Florence, the youngest child of Joseph Gamgee, a well-known veterinary surgeon, and his wife Mary West. He spent the early part of his boyhood at Florence but later entered University College School in London. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University, where his interest in physiology was at once manifest, and graduated as M.D. in 1862, afterwards acting as house physician in the Royal Infirmary. He then acted as assistant to the professor of medical jurisprudence for six years, until 1869, and at the same time was physician to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and lecturer on physiology at Surgeons’ Hall in Edinburgh. He published, during this period, researches that were rewarded by his election as an F.R.S. at the age of thirty-one. In 1871 he worked with Kühne at Heidelberg and Ludwig at Leipzig, and two years later was appointed the first Brackenbury professor of physiology at Owens College, Manchester. During his twelve years in this post, during which he was also dean of the Medical School, physician to the Hospital for Consumption, and, for the last three years, Fullerian professor of physiology at the Royal Institution in London, Gamgee increased immeasurably both the prestige of the School and his own reputation, and influenced strongly the development of physiological research in England. He published a translation (1875) of Hermann’s Human Physiology and his own Textbook of the Physiological Chemistry of the Animal Body in two volumes (1880-93), as well as the results of his research on the chemistry of the blood and many other papers. He examined for the Universities of Oxford and London.

On leaving Manchester in 1885, Gamgee practised in St. Leonards as a consulting physician for a time. In 1887 he moved to London and was appointed assistant physician and lecturer on pharmacology at St. George’s Hospital. Two years later ill health compelled him to resign these posts, and after a year at Cambridge he settled in Switzerland. Residing in turn at Berne, Lausanne and Montreux, he carried on a consulting practice and continued his researches, particularly on the properties of haemoglobin, in a private laboratory. He delivered the Croonian Lectures before the Royal Society in 1902, and in that year, and again in 1903, visited American physiological laboratories. A classical scholar and an accomplished linguist in French, German and Italian, Gamgee was a brilliant, restless individual, enthusiastic and impulsive. He married in 1875 Mary Louisa, daughter of J. Proctor Clark, and had one son and two daughters. J. S. Gamgee, the eminent Birmingham surgeon, was his elder brother. He returned to England a few years before his death and died while on a visit to Paris.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1909; B.M.J., 1909; D.N.B., 2nd Suppl., ii, 73]

(Volume IV, page 387)

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