Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Pavy, Frederick William
PAVY, FREDERICK WILLIAM (1829–1911), physician, born at Wroughton, Wiltshire, on 29 May 1829, was son of William Pavy, a maltster there, by Mary his wife. Educated at Merchant Taylors' School in Suffolk Lane, London, where he entered in Jan. 1840, he experienced a Spartan discipline under James Bellamy, the headmaster, father of Dr. James Bellamy [q. v. Suppl. II]. He proceeded to Guy's Hospital in 1848, and matriculated at the University of London. Here he gained honours at the intermediate examination in medicine in 1850, and the scholarship and medal in materia medica and pharmaceutical chemistry. In 1852 he graduated M.B. with honours in physiology and comparative anatomy, obstetric medicine and surgery, and the medal in medicine (the medal in surgery being gained by Joseph, afterwards Lord, Lister). Pavy then served as house surgeon and house physician at Guy's Hospital, and in 1853 he went to Paris and joined the English Medical Society of Paris, of which he became a vice-president. The society met in a room near the Luxembourg and owned a small library. It was the rendezvous of the English medical students, where they met weekly to read papers and to report interesting cases. In Paris Pavy came more especially under the influence of Claude Bernard, who was at this time giving a course of experimental lectures on the role and nature of glycogen and the phenomena of diabetes. Pavy made the study of diabetes the work of his life and imitated his master in the manner of his lectures.
On his return to England Pavy was appointed lecturer on comparative anatomy at Guy's Hospital in 1854, and from 1856 to 1878 he lectured there upon physiology and microscopical anatomy, and afterwards upon systematic medicine. He was elected assistant physician to the hospital in 1858, on the promotion of (Sir) William Gull [q. v.], and became full physician in 1871, when the number of physicians was increased from three to four. He was appointed consulting physician to the hospital in 1890, his tenure of office upon the full staff having been prolonged for an additional year.
At the Royal College of Physicians of London he was elected a fellow in 1860; he served as an examiner in 1872–3 and in 1878–9; he was a councillor from 1875 to 1877 and again from 1888 to 1890; a censor in 1882, 1883, and 1891. He delivered the Goulstonian lectures in 1862–3; the Croonian lectures in 1878 and 1894, and the Harveian oration in 1886. He was awarded the Baly medal in 1901.
He also did good work at the medical societies of London. In 1860 he delivered the Lettsomian lectures at the Medical Society 'On Certain Points connected with Diabetes.' He served as president of the Pathological Society from 1893 to 1895 and as president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society from 1900 to 1902. He acted for some years as president of the Association for the Advancement of Medicine by Research, and from 1901 he served, after the death of Sir William MacCormac [q. v. Suppl. II], as president of the national committee for Great Britain and Ireland of the International Congress of Medicine. The permanent committee of this congress, meeting at the Hague in 1909, appointed him the first chairman.
Pavy was elected F.R.S. in 1863; the University of Glasgow conferred upon him the hon. degree of LL.D. in 1888, and in 1909 he was crowned Lauréat de l'Académie de Médecine de Paris and received the Prix Grodard for his physiological researches. On 26 June 1909, at a meeting of the Physiological Society of Great Britain and Ireland held at Oxford, he was presented with a silver bowl bearing an expression 'of affection and admiration.'
Pavy died at his house, 35 Grosvenor Street, London, W., on 19 Sept. 1911, and was buried at Highgate cemetery.
He married in 1854 Julia, daughter of W. Oliver, by whom he had two daughters who predeceased him. The elder, Florence Julia (d. 1902), was married in 1881 to the Rev. Sir Borradaile Savory, second baronet, son of Sir William Scovell Savory, first baronet, F.R.S. [q. v.].
A sketch — a good likeness — made by W. Strang, A.R.A., hangs in the rooms of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Pavy was the last survivor of a line of distinguished physician-chemists who did much to lay the foundations and advance the study of metabolic disorders; at the same time he ranks as a pioneer amongst the chemical pathologists of the modern school. As a pupil of Claude Bernard he recognised that all advances in the study of disease must rest upon investigations into the normal processes of the body; but as his investigations proceeded, he found himself obliged to dissent from the views of his master and to adopt new working hypotheses which he put to the test of experiment and frequently varied. Some of his theories did not meet with the approval of those who were working along similar lines, and others never obtained general acceptance. He made the study of carbohydrate metabolism the work of his life, and he was the founder of the modern theory of diabetes. In this connection his name was associated with many practical improvements in clinical and practical medicine, and 'Pavy's Test' for sugar and his use of sugar tests and albumen tests in the solid form have made his name familiar to physicians and medical students throughout the world. As a practical physician, too, he was greatly interested in dietetics, and he wrote a well-known book upon the subject, 'A Treatise on Food and Dietetics physiologically and therapeutically considered' (1873; 2nd edit. 1875; Philadelphia, 1874; New York, 1881). Throughout life he remained a student, and even to the last week he was at work in the laboratory which he had built at the back of his consulting room in Grosvenor Street. Quiet in bearing, gentle and courteous in speech, and with a somewhat old-fashioned formality of manner, he was generous in his benefactions. At Guy's medical school he built a well-equipped gymnasium and presented it to the students' union in 1890.
Besides the works cited Pavy published: 1. 'Researches on the Nature and Treatment of Diabetes,' 1862; 2nd edit. 1869; translated into German by Dr. W. Langenbeck, Gottingen, 1864. 2. 'A Treatise on the Functions of Digestion, its Disorders and their Treatment,' 1867; 2nd edit. 1869. 3. 'The Croonian Lectures on Certain Points connected with Diabetes, delivered at the Royal College of Physicians,' 1878. 4. 'The Harveian Oration, delivered at the Royal College of Physicians,' 1886. 5. 'The Physiology of the Carbohydrates, their Application as Food and Relation to Diabetes,' 1894; translated into German by Karl Grube, Leipzig and Vienna, 1895. 6. 'On Carbohydrate Metabolism (a course of advanced lectures on Physiology delivered at the University of London, May 1905), with an appendix on the assimilation of carbohydrate into proteid and fat, followed by the fundamental principles and the treatment of Diabetes dialectically discussed,' 1906.
[The Lancet, 1911, ii. 976 (with portrait and bibliography of chief papers contributed to periodicals and societies); Brit. Med. Journal, 1911, ii. 777 (with portrait); The Guy's Hosp. Gaz. 1911, xxv. 393 (with bibliography); additional information kindly given by Sir William Borradaile Savory, Bart., his grandson, by H. L. Eason, Esq., M.S., dean of the medical school at Guy's Hospital, and by Dr. J. S. Edkins; personal knowledge.]