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Prof. Sir William MacEwen


1848 - 1924

Surgical pioneer. Born near Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute, MacEwen studied surgery under Joseph Lister (1827 - 1912) at the University of Glasgow. He held surgical appointments in two Glasgow hospitals; the Royal Infirmary (from 1875) and the Western Infirmary. It was in these hospitals that he developed Lister's principles involving the use of antiseptics and sterilisation of the surgical environment.

With a sterile operating theatre, MacEwen was able to attempt difficult operations, previously considered too dangerous and he pioneered of surgery on the brain, spine and lung, together with the first bone grafts. Particularly noted for laying the foundations of neuro-surgery, MacEwen was the first to operate on a brain abscess (1876) and successfully removed a brain tumour in 1878. He was also very interested in bone growth and performed the first bone graft in 1879, allowing him to implant missing small portions of bones in the limbs. In 1895, he was able to perform the first pneumonectomy (removal of a tuberculous lung).

In 1892, MacEwen was appointed to the Regius Chair of Surgery in the University of Glasgow, the post which Lister had held when MacEwen was a student. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1895 and was knighted in 1902.

MacEwen lived at Garrochty on the Isle of Bute and was buried nearby in the churchyard of St. Blane's Chapel.


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