Lives of the fellows

Edwin Cooper (Sir) Perry

b.10 September 1856 d.17 December 1938
GCVO(1935) MA MD Cantab Hon MD Egypt Hon LLD Lond MRCS FRCP(1894)

Cooper Perry was born at Castle Bromwich, the only son of Rev. Edwin Cresswell Perry and his wife Esther Cooper, daughter of Joseph Cockram of Darlaston, Staffordshire. He won scholarships to Eton and to King’s College, Cambridge, where he crowned a brilliant academic career by being senior classic in the tripos of 1880. Elected a fellow of his College in the same year, he began the study of music and philosophy before deciding on a medical career. He studied medicine first at Cambridge and was appointed assistant demonstrator of anatomy in the Medical School in 1883. He entered the London Hospital in 1885 and qualified in the same year, afterwards holding house appointments in the Hospital. In 1887 he was elected assistant physician to Guy’s Hospital, with charge of its skin department, and a year later found scope for his administrative talents when he was made dean of its Medical School. There he speedily reorganised the system of junior appointments and built a Medical College for the students, of which he became the warden. In 1892 he took the step, unprecedented for a member of the honorary staff, of offering himself as a candidate for the post of superintendent of the Hospital. In his twenty-eight years’ tenure of this office he effected sweeping reforms which included the modernisation of the buildings and the construction of a dental department. At the same time he carried out his duties as physician and as lecturer, successively, on materia medica, dermatology and medicine.

Outside Guy’s, Perry’s services were utilised in many ways. He was one of the first visitors for the Prince of Wales’s (later King Edward’s) Hospital Fund, of whose distribution committee he was chairman from 1921 till his death. After the Boer War, he served on a commission appointed to remodel the Army Medical Services and was largely responsible for establishing the Royal Army Medical College, at Millbank. He was influential in inaugurating the State registration of nurses, the College of Nursing, and the Chartered Society of Massage.

Perry was no less active in the affairs of London University, being vice-chancellor from 1917 to 1919, and, after leaving Guy’s in 1920, he was its principal for six years. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine owed its constitution in 1924 partly to his initiative. In 1926 he went to Egypt, which he had already visited in 1897 on a similar mission, to reorganise its medical and pharmaceutical schools. He examined for London and Cambridge Universities and for the Conjoint Board. He was knighted in 1903 and created G.C.V.O. in 1935.

Perry was a man who with his fine intellect and organising abilities would have excelled in most walks of life. He was little known to the public because he cared nothing for material rewards or self-advertisement. Shy and lacking in the social graces, he appeared abrupt and sarcastic to men who were less disinterested or less conscientious than he was. Outside his work he found pleasure in the classics, in music and in working at a lathe. He married in 1890 Caroline Maud, daughter of James MacManus of Kiltimagh, Mayo, and had one daughter. He died at his home in Worthing.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1938; B.M.J., 1938; D.N.B., 1931-40, 688; Guy's Hospital Gazette, 1938, lii, 520]

(Volume IV, page 372)

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