Lives of the fellows

Isaac Burney Yeo

b.3 March 1835 d.20 November 1914
MD Lond MRCS FRCP(1876)

Isaac Burney Yeo was born and educated at Stonehouse, Devon. After serving an apprenticeship with a local doctor, he entered King’s College, London, in 1858. Qualifying three years later, he obtained a house appointment in the Hampshire County Hospital and then became physician to the Westminster General Dispensary. He was medical tutor at King’s from 1865 to 1871, and in 1869 was elected assistant physician to King’s College Hospital. He was made full physician in 1876, professor of clinical therapeutics in 1885 and professor of medicine in 1896; he retired in 1900. Burney Yeo also served as assistant physician to the Brompton Hospital for ten years. His most popular written work was his Manual of Medical Treatment (1893), of which over 30,000 copies were sold. Other books and articles on dietetics and health resorts were addressed to the public rather than to the profession.

Burney Yeo, indeed, was generally more successful in his relations with his patients than in his dealings with his colleagues. As a teacher, he tended to be digressive and unpractical; as a hospital physician, he paid less attention to physical examination than to patients’ statements of their symptoms, and prescribed drugs freely and efficiently. His sensitive and assertive nature brought him into frequent clashes with his colleagues, whom he viewed with suspicion if not with hostility. Yet these same qualities won him a huge private practice among statesmen, financiers, London hostesses, members of the literary and theatrical professions — a world where there was scope for his confident individual approach, his absorption with details, and his polished deference. But if he lived somewhat isolated from his profession, he was generous to it after death, for he left large bequests to King’s — from which the Burney Yeo scholarships were founded — to the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund and to the Royal Medical Benevolent College, Epsom. His wife was Winifred Helen Spyers, daughter of T. Spyers, M.D, of Weybridge; there were no children of the marriage. He died in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1914; B.M.J., 1914; Lyle, 306]

(Volume IV, page 244)

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