Lives of the fellows

Edmund Ivens (Sir) Spriggs

b.25 September 1871 d.4 February 1949
KCVO(1935) MD Lond FRCP(1905) JP

Edmund Spriggs, born at Foxton in Leicestershire, the son of Joseph Spriggs, went to Market Harborough Grammar School and Wycliffe College, Stonehouse, as a boy. At the age of eighteen he was indentured as a dentist at Rotherham. Three years later he obtained a scholarship to Firth College and from there one to Guy’s Hospital. Having graduated in 1896, he remained at Guy’s in junior appointments and as Beaney research student, until 1901, when he visited Heidelberg as Gill research scholar. On his return he was elected assistant physician to the Royal Hospital for Diseases of the Chest in 1902, to the Victoria Hospital for Children in 1903, and, in the following year, to St. George’s Hospital, where he also lectured on pharmacology.

Spriggs’ career was gravely interrupted when, in 1910, he developed pleurisy and, in 1911, suffered a severe relapse. Advised, on his return from a year in Nordrach-on-Dee Sanatorium, against resuming his work in London, he accepted the post of senior physician in a new sanatorium designed for cases other than tuberculosis, Duff House, in Banff. With this institution, which was moved to Ruthin Castle, North Wales, after ten years, Spriggs remained in association till his death. From 1917 to 1918 he also acted as medical advisor to the Ministry of Food and, after the War he visited the United States and Canada to study medical progress there. In 1930, returning from a lecture tour in the United States, he became the victim of another illness, lasting two years. He examined for the Royal College of Physicians, as well as for Aberdeen University, and delivered the Oliver-Sharpey Lectures of 1906, the Croonian Lectures of 1935 and the Harveian Oration in 1944.

Spriggs’ experience of clinical medicine and his background of laboratory research enabled him to make notable observations on gastric and intestinal diseases, which earned a wide reputation. Insulin received an early test at the Ruthin Castle clinic, and pernicious anaemia was treated with the Minot-Murphy liver diet there, for the first time in England. Ever ready to examine fresh ideas, he was cautious in arriving at his own conclusions, although quick to defend them once established. But he was always willing to withdraw an untenable opinion. Thus his work created an impression both of far-sightedness and of thoroughness. His interests outside the clinic were wide. Local public affairs claimed his attention, and he was High Sheriff of Denbighshire in 1945. He was created K.C.V.O. in 1935. His favourite pastime was shooting. He enjoyed fishing, golf and tennis, and he bred and trained golden retrievers. He married, firstly, in 1905 Alice, daughter of T. S. Watson of Foxton, by whom he had two sons and two daughters and, secondly, in 1936 Jane, daughter of William Macintosh, M.V.O., of Dunning, Perthshire. He died at Ruthin Castle.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1949; B.M.J., 1949; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1949, 13]

(Volume IV, page 468)

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