Lives of the fellows

Sydney Alexander Henry

b.15 Aug 1880 d.12 Feb 1960
BA Cantab (1901) MA Cantab (1905) MB BCh Cantab (1906) DPH Cantab (1908) DPH Durh (1908) DTM Liverp (1909) MD Cantab (1910) DIH Lond (1958) MRCS LRCP (1905) MRCP (1938) FRCP (1945) FRCS (1952)

Sydney Alexander Henry was born in Rochdale, the son of Dr Joseph Henry and his wife, Ernestine, of the Crescent, Rochdale, Lancs. He was educated at Rossall School, Trinity College, Cambridge, and St. Thomas’s Hospital, London. He spent a few years as assistant school medical officer to Dr J. C. Bridge in Brecon and then went into general practice in Rochdale, where he held the post of certifying factory surgeon. In this capacity he met Sir Thomas Legge, H.M. senior medical inspector of factories, with whom he developed a close friendship and who influenced his subsequent career. He served during the 1914-18 War as captain in the R.A.M.C, and in 1916 was made a Knight of the Order of the Crown (Belgium). In 1920 he was appointed H.M. medical inspector of factories (Home Office), the fourth to be so appointed; and thus began a close association with Legge and with Bridge, who had joined the Factory Department some years previously.

For ten years Henry worked in Manchester and during this time became secretary of two departmental committees, one on mule-spinners’ cancer and the other on dust in card-rooms. On both committees he served with conspicuous success, as well as carrying out his multifarious official duties. But his greatest interest was in occupational cancer; many of his long list of publications are devoted to this subject, all of them classics in their meticulous attention to detail.

He delivered the Hunterian lectures to the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1940 and 1950, and the Milroy lectures to the College in 1943. In 1944 he was appointed Chadwick lecturer. He endowed College lectureships in memory of his parents—the Joseph Henry lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons and the Ernestine Henry lecture at the the Royal College of Physicians.

Henry, who was unmarried, had a passion for collecting not only degrees and diplomas, but also first editions, china, furniture, paintings and prints of the French Impressionists, as well as early photographs and engravings of chimney sweeps, with anything which appertained to and threw light on occupational cancer. Lady Legge gave Henry many of the specimens which Legge had collected, and these he presented to Manchester University as the Legge collection. His own collection of specimens, photographs and documents concerning chimney sweeps was given to the Municipal Museum in Leeds, the town which had produced the first English pioneer of industrial medicine, Charles Turner Thackrah. He was energetic, charming and a voluble conversationalist. His preoccupations made him absent-minded and many amusing stories have been told about this aspect of his personality. It was almost impossible to steer him past a book-shop, and once he began browsing he forgot all his appointments. His modesty and lack of guile endeared him to his friends, who realised that his standards were high and his integrity unquestionable.

[, 1960, 1, 807; Lancet, 1960, 1, 555 (p), 660.]

(Volume V, page 190)

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