Lives of the fellows

George Edward (Sir) Paget

b.22 December 1809 d.29 January 1892
BA Cantab(1831) MB(1833) MD Hon MD Dubl Hon DCL Oxon Hon LLD Edin FRCP(1839) FRS Hon FRCPI

George Paget was born at Great Yarmouth, the son of Samuel Paget, a brewer, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Tolver. After going to school at Charterhouse, he entered Caius College, Cambridge, as an undergraduate in 1827. He emerged four years later as eighth wrangler, having also rowed for his College, and in 1832 was given a fellowship, which he retained till his marriage in 1851. He studied medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, returning to Cambridge in 1833 to take his M.B. degree and begin his career. In 1839, he began a forty-five years’ tenure of office as physician to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. In 1851, he was elected Linacre lecturer at St. John’s College, and in 1872 succeeded Bond as Regius professor of medicine. Paget, who was president of the B.M.A. in 1864 and Harveian Orator at the Royal College of Physicians in 1866, represented his University on the General Medical Council from 1863 to 1874, being president for the last five years of this period.

Paget’s career is memorable chiefly for the revival of the Cambridge Medical School. In the first half of the century fewer than four students were taking the Cambridge medical degree annually and only two colleges awarded fellowships or scholarships in medicine. Thanks to the influence of Paget, George Humphry and, later, Michael Foster, the School’s reputation was raised, in a lifetime, from a low level to the highest. The clinical examination of medical students was introduced, the natural sciences tripos instituted, scholarships and fellowships in natural sciences founded, laboratories built and teaching chairs endowed. Paget’s administrative successes were won by a combination of farsightedness, precision, social charm, eloquence and enthusiasm. At the same time he was a teacher and a physician of the first rank.

Paget married Clara, daughter of Rev. Thomas Fardell, LL.D, vicar of Sutton, Ely; they had ten children. One of his younger brothers was Sir James Paget, Bart, the eminent surgeon.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1892; Times, 30 Jan. 1892; B.M.J., 1892; D.N.B., xliii, 52; Biog.Hist.of Caius College, ii, 202]

(Volume IV, page 21)

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