Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Paget, George Edward

PAGET, Sir GEORGE EDWARD, M.D. (1809–1892), physician, seventh son of Samuel Paget and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth Tolver, was born at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, on 22 Dec. 1809. After being at a small school in his native town, he was sent to Charterhouse School in 1824, and in addition to the regular work, which was then, under Dr. Russell, wholly classical, he studied mathematics; so that when a mathematical master was appointed, Paget was top of the school in that subject. He entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in October 1827, and in 1831 graduated as eighth wrangler. In 1832 he was elected to a physic fellowship in his college, and at once began the study of medicine. He entered at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and, after studying medicine in Paris, graduated M.B. at Cambridge in 1833, M.L. in 1836, and M.D. in 1838.

In 1839 he became physician to Addenbrooke's Hospital, an office which he held for forty-five years; and in the same year he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London. He resided in Caius College, Cambridge, was bursar of the college, and gradually came into practice as a physician. He succeeded in 1842 in persuading the university to institute bedside examinations for its medical degrees, and these were the first regular clinical examinations held in the United Kingdom. The example of Cambridge has since been followed by all other examining bodies. In July 1851 he was elected Linacre lecturer on medicine at St. John's College. On his marriage he vacated his fellowship, and took a house in Cambridge. In 1855–6 he was president of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, and in 1856 was elected a member of the council of the senate. In 1863 he was chosen representative of the university on the General Council of Medical Education and Registration, of which he was elected president in 1869, and re-elected in 1874. In 1872 he was appointed to the regius professorship of physic at Cambridge, which he held till his death. Except Francis Glisson [q. v.], he was the most distinguished of the occupants of the chair from its foundation in 1540. He delivered the Harveian oration at the College of Physicians in 1866, and it was afterwards printed. He had in 1849 printed an interesting letter of Harvey to Dr. Samuel Ward, master of Sidney Sussex College, and in 1850 a ‘Notice of an Unpublished Manuscript of Harvey.’ The letter to Dr. Ward had enabled him to establish the genuineness of ‘Gulielmus Harvey de Musculis,’ No. 486 in the Sloane collection in the British Museum. Soon after taking his degree he visited Harvey's tomb at Hempstead, Essex, and had four casts made of the bust on his monument, of which he kept one and gave the others to the College of Physicians, Caius College, and St. Bartholomew's Hospital. He was elected F.R.S. in 1873, and received an honorary degree from the university of Oxford in 1872. On 19 Dec. 1885 he was made K.C.B., and in 1887 he was asked to represent Cambridge university in parliament, but declined on the ground of ill-health.

Paget had great influence in the university, due to his upright character, long acquaintance with university affairs, and great power of lucid statement. His lectures were excellent, though he had the disadvantage of having often to lecture to students not sufficiently advanced in their studies to profit to the full by his instruction. He was always clear and interesting, and commanded the close attention of his audience. His social qualities were of a high order, and his conversation was always both pleasant and instructive. He never allowed an attack upon Cambridge, medicine, or Harvey to pass unanswered, and his ability was prominent in such a reply. He was attached to all the harmless traditions of the university. As a physician, teacher, and examiner, he was in the highest degree kind and courteous. His first medical publication was ‘Cases of Morbid Rhythmical Movements’ in the ‘Edinburgh Medical Journal’ for 1847. In the ‘Medical Times and Gazette’ of 24 Feb. 1855 he published ‘Case of involuntary Tendency to Fall precipitately forwards,’ and in the ‘British Medical Journal’ for 22 Sept. 1860 ‘Case of Epilepsy with some Uncommon Symptoms’—these were peculiar automatic bursts of laughter; 10 Dec. 1887, ‘Notes on an Exceptional Case of Aphasia’ of a left-handed man who, having paralysis of the left side, had aphasia; 5 Jan. 1889, ‘Remarks on a Case of Alternate Partial Anæsthesia.’ In the ‘Lancet’ for 11 and 18 April 1868 he published ‘Lecture on Gastric Epilepsy,’ and on 4 July 1885 ‘Case of Remarkable Risings and Fallings of the Bodily Temperature.’

He died on 16 Jan. 1892 of epidemic influenza, and was buried at Cambridge. Four lectures were published by his son after his death—two on alcohol, one on the etiology of typhoid fever, and one on mental causes of bodily disease. A portrait of him as an old man is prefixed to the memoir of him by his son; and his portrait, in a red gown, was painted at an earlier age, and is in possession of his family. His bust, in marble, presented by his friends, is in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. He married, on 11 Dec. 1851, Clara, youngest daughter of the Rev. Thomas Fardell, vicar of Sutton in the Isle of Ely. He had ten children, of whom seven survived him.

[Some Lectures by the late Sir George E. Paget, edited by Charles E. Paget, with a memoir, Cambridge, 1893; information from Sir James Paget, bart.; personal knowledge.]

N. M.