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Turner, Professor George Grey

Turner, G. Grey (George Grey) (1877-1951)
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Correspondence; biographical material; photographs; lecture notes; cuttings; reprints.



Physical description

16 boxes 3 folders, 1 roll


In view of the chequered career suffered by the papers and the fact that all the accessions had in fact sprung from the same source and formed one 'collection', it was decided that there was nothing to be gained by listing the accessions separately. There was no difference between the various groups of correspondence and these have therefore been merged into one chronological sequence except for a few special groups of correspondence. Since there was no inherent order in any of the material and what remains is arbitrary, the material has been arranged under general headings, normally chronologically within each group. Subsequent accessions have been incorporated into relevant sections.

A few items have been added to the collection after Grey Turner's death in 1951; obituary and other reminiscences, correspondence of colleagues and items relating to the RPMS centenary celebrations in 1977.

Anyone working on the collection should bear in mind that Mr Robson's typed copies of Grey Turner's papers contain a great deal of evidence that is not available elsewhere. He copied from letters, diaries, notebooks and other documents and arranged the material roughly in chronological order. The Wellcome Library have checked that both sets of these volumes (the other at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School) are in the same chronological order and bound one set of top copies for the Library.

Acquisition note

This collection of papers represents a very small portion of what once comprised Grey Turner's papers. The provenance of the collection is an extremely chequered one and sadly what remains in the Wellcome Library is only the 'rump' of the collection.

From the evidence of Dr Elston Grey Turner (Grey Turner's son), Mr J Robson (Grey Turner's Chief Technician), and the Royal Postgraduate Medical School (RPMS) at Hammersmith, it would appear that Grey Turner accumulated an enormous amount of material including a bulky correspondence, diaries, case records, a large collection of lantern slides, pathological slides and bound reprints of his papers.

Dr Elston Grey Turner's correspondence file relating to the papers can be found at section H.

In 1951 following Grey Turner's death, the material was moved to the Wellcome Institute in 1952. No catalogue from this period has been traced. By 1959 little appeared to have been done with the collection and there was discussion about the possibility of Sir Zachary Cope or someone else writing a biography of Grey Turner to launch the appeal for a Grey Turner Memorial at the RPMS. This, combined with personal disagreements over the collection between Professor Ian Aird (who had succeeded Grey Turner as Professor of Surgery at the RPMS) and Dr Ashworth Underwood, Director of the Institute, led to the collection being moved to the RPMS in 1960. Professor Aird intended that he or a suitable biographer would work on the collection and that a Grey Turner Memorial Room would be established. A copy of Dr Ashworth Underwood's letter to Professor Aird in 1960 (included as Appendix A to this list) gives an indication of the scope of the collection at this time. Unfortunately the new RPMS building intended to house the material had not been completed by 1962 when Professor Aird committed suicide.

Professor R B Welbourn was appointed to the Chair of Surgery in 1963 and confirmed with Dr Elston Grey Turner that it was still the intention of the RPMS to house the collection adequately, possibly using part as a focus for the proposed Common Room.

In 1977 Grey Turner items were displayed in the Department of Surgery at the centenary of his birth, these items including his travel diaries and pictures and programmes of meetings of the Moynihan Chirurgical Club. [Presumably the latter items are those to be found 'mounted' on card in the collection].

In August 1979 the Wellcome Library approached the RPMS about the collection and was told that apart from items sorted and disposed of by Mr Robson, no valuable papers had been destroyed and the bulk was safely stored in the School Library. Mr Robson had compiled sets of typed copies of much of the material and one set of these volumes (Ref F.1-3) was included in the collection. He himself reported that after years of neglect, the papers having suffered from being housed in various places including a hut on the roof of the X-ray department (when the lantern slides were ruined by rain), he had last seen the collection well stacked in a dry cellar in the late 1970's.

In January 1981 when the Wellcome Library made further enquiries they were informed that the papers had been burnt, without the knowledge of Professor Welbourn.

A brief list of the extant material was made in February by the Wellcome Library and all except a few items strictly belonging to the School were transferred to the CMAC in May (Accession 111).

During the process of many moves some items had been separated. Thus Accession 9 represented material discovered in the Wellcome Institute, presumably consulted by Dr Ashworth Underwood and not returned to the RPMS in 1960. Accession 75 had been previously registered in Western Manuscripts in the Institute, as comprising various papers, 1935-51, and it was transferred to the archives department with other twentieth-century items.

Accession 113 consisted of one set of the volumes compiled by Mr Robson together with a small amount of correspondence and Grey Turner Surgical Club agenda, all of which were given by Dr Elston Grey Turner.

Some additional material was handed over in 1986 (Acc 255) following the death of Elston Grey Turner and has been incorporated in the revised list in February 1987. At the same time George Grey Turner (1986), a publication by the Grey Turner Surgical Club, was added to the collection (Ref. A.20).

Autograph letters and other historical papers collected by Grey Turner are located in the Western Manuscripts sequence as MS 5423, 6922.

A box of early photographs of Newcastle upon Tyne has been placed in the Tyne and Wear Archives.

Negatives of a 16 mm film 'Construction of a New Oesophagus' [1933] have been handed over to the British Medical Association Film Library.

Accession 1976 was received in December 2012 and is catalogued as PP/GGT/B/12.

Biographical note

George Grey Turner: biographical outline

1877 Born in North Shields, son of James Grey Turner

1898 Graduated MB. BS. University of Durham

Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne

(house-appointments and registrarships)

Postgraduate study at Vienna

1901 MS (with first class honours)

1903 F.R.C.S.

1906 Elected to staff of Royal Infirmary

1908 Married Alice Grey Schofield (had 3 daughters and 1 son)

1914-18 Service with R.A.M.C. at home and overseas - for a time as consulting surgeon in Mesopotamia

1926 Elected to Council of Royal College of Surgeons (served up to 1950)

1927 Professor Surgery in University of Durham

1928 President of the Association of Surgeons of GB and Ireland Hunterian Professor

1929 Orator, Medical Society of London

1930 Delivered John B. Murphy Oration in Philadelphia

1931 Awarded Bigelow Medal for advancement in surgery at Boston

1934 Halliburton Hume Lectures on oesophagus

President Medical Society of London

1935 Professor of Surgery in new British Postgraduate Medical School

Delivered Bradshaw Lecture on carcinoma of oesophagus

Hon DCh (Durham)

1937-39 Vice President, Royal College of Surgeons

1939 Lettsomian Lectures on surgery of the gall-bladder and bile ducts

MacEwen Memorial Lecture on MacEwen (published 1939)

Prosser White Oration

LLD (Glasgow)

1943 George Halliburton Hume Memorial Lectures, RVI, on the oesophagus (published 1946)

1943-44 President, Medical Society of London

1945 Hunterian Oration on the Hunterian Museum (published 1946)

1947 International Society of Surgery meeting London

First Rutherford Morison lecturer at RVI

1949 Moynihan Lecture

President XIII Congress of International Society of Surgery at New Orleans

1951 Died Aug 24th

Publications include editing Modern Operative Surgery (2nd edit. onward 1934), Encouragements in Cancer surgery (1925), and numerous articles.

Related material

In the Wellcome Library:

Further papers by Turner are found at at MS.7780/13-15 and in the papers of Charles Firmin Cuthbert (MSS.1982-1997). An inventory of Turner's personalia is found in the Wellcome Archives at WA/HMM/CM/Col/99. Material from his autograph collection can be found as MSS.5421-5422 and MS.5423.

In other repositories:

Negatives of a 16mm film 'Construction of a new oesophagus' [1933] were handed over to the British Medical Association Film Library.

A box of early photographs of Newcastle upon Tyne has been placed in the Tyne and Wear Archives.

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