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Arthur Fergusson McGill

1846 - 1890

Performed UK's first retropubic prostatectomy

Arthur Fergusson McGill was born at Cartmel in Lancashire in 1846. He was the youngest son of William McGill MD and was educated at Tonbridge School and King's College Hospital.

At King’s, he was House Surgeon to his godfather, Sir William Fergusson. After qualifying in 1869, he was appointed Resident Medical Officer to the Leeds Infirmary and, in 1874, surgeon to the Leeds Public Dispensary and demonstrator in anatomy in the Leeds School of Medicine. In 1882 he was elected assistant surgeon at the Infirmary and, in 1884, full surgeon. He became Professor of Surgery in 1887.

McGill is best known as the surgeon who established the operation of prostatectomy for prostatic enlargement by the suprapubic operation. The exact chronology is unclear but it is likely that he had been preceded by William Bellfield of Chicago. Certainly Arthur McGill was the first surgeon to carry out this procedure in Great Britain.

McGill first undertook the operation on 24 March 1887 with Berkley Moynihan as a dresser. McGill, having opened the bladder of a man with retention, was feeling with his finger the size of the prostate. It is said that by mistake in doing so "it came away in his hand". Whatever the truth, McGill appreciated the importance of what he had done and remarked, "We must do this again." At the BMA meeting in Leeds two years later, McGill presented a number of his patients holding their prostates in jars.

In 1886, he began to suffer from diabetes complicated by carbuncles, and he died on 21 November 1890 at 2 Park Square, Leeds.

An official biography is available in Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online.

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