The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Search the Collection

Walter George Spencer

(1858-1940), Surgeon

Sitter in 1 portrait

Tell us More

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close

List Thumbnail

Walter George Spencer, by Elliott & Fry - NPG x99663

Walter George Spencer

by Elliott & Fry
half-plate glass negative, 1950
NPG x99663

Category

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this person? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license an image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

Dr Rhys Hamilton

08 November 2018, 21:35

Additional transcription of the Autobiography of my Grandfather Dr Rhys Bevan John who was taught by Walter George Spencer as a Medical Student at Westminster Hospital.---The following describes my Grandfathers interactions with him over some medical cases and may be of interest. I have included it in its entirety but feel free to cut it or edit it--

---It was one of my duties as a house surgeon to go round the wards with the dressers trying to impart what little I knew to those who, presumably, knew even less.
Coming across a beautiful case of what I had diagnosed as a Schirrus Carcinoma of the breast, I opened up my vials of knowledge and proudly poured forth the contents. "You'll please notice gentlemen"-I began in my most impressive tones, "that this Schirrus is almost a textbook case. It is, as you see, situated in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, has drawn in the nipple, and, dimpled the skin, It is stony hard to the touch and is adherent both to skin and the deep tissue. The axillary glands are enlarged--The age incidence is a common one--Now all of you feel it for yourselves and make sure and make sure you have got the salient points." This was duly done and we proceeded to the next case.
On the next Wednesday, Mr Spencer did his round of the wards, accompanied as usual by his team of students.
I produced my list and, after a rapid glance at the notes, he went over the the cases to confirm the diagnoses. "Oh!-- Whats this?"-he exclaimed as he looked at my 'typical Schirrus'--"That's not a Schirrus..."---I blushed but, deferring to his superior knowledge, presumed to ask, amidst much tittering, "Whys is it not a Schirrus, Sir?--It has all the classical signs."
"Oh, I don't know. But it is not a Schirrus--after a cursory fingering of the breast--but had her down down for operation all the same.
This I most certainly did and as soon as the mass had been excised, nipped up to the Pathological Lab. where the venerable 'Daddy' Hebb resided and asked. "Would you examine this tissue and let me have your report, Sir?"-- The old man fingered it a moment. "Schirrus!"-he replied laconically. "I'll let you have my report in a few days. I smiled to myself.
When the examination was completed, I approached Dr Hebb with a grin.
"Scirrus, Sir?'
"God bless the boy--who told you it was a Schirrus?--That..my boy, is a very definite mastitis..... My jaw fell. "Mastitis, Sir?"--"Well--Look at the slides!" One feel was enough. Sure enough it was no cancer but an extremely fibrotic Mastitis.
When Mr Spencer next visited the ward I told him of how I had doubted his diagnosis and had had some slides made of the tumour removed.
"Do you mind telling me, Sir, how you knew it was not a malignant growth before you excised it?"--For a moment the old man communed within himself--then--turning up his eyes to heaven--and intoning his answer like a friend at prayers.
"Well--when you have looked at breast tumours for forty or fifty years, you too will know--but I'm afraid I can give you no other explanation...."
Singularly enough, history did repeat itself in my own case about 35 years later when I was able to confound two much abler Consultants by that peculiar knowledge that comes only with experience and insisted on a clear case of Mastitis which on operation proved to be correct and not a Schirrus!
Mr Stewart was a cautious lecturer. Very rarely was he able to be as emphatic as she was over my 'Schirrus' --Most of his statements were qualified with such phrases as 'Broadly speaking'--or 'more or less' which provoked a waggish student named Hughes to remark, after dining with the Spencer family,
that he 'Old Man' had introduced him saying "Broadly speaking, my wife and -er--um-- more or less my daughter." As the wife was truly broad of beam, the shaft went home, but the calumny about the daughter needed no rebutting--it passed for a witticism with no basis of fact. For some time I enjoyed the Old Man's favour as an Anaesthetist. This rather went to my head until, one day, he pushed me off the chair where I was somewhat slowly going under, seized a towel and a bottle of Chloroform, deluged the patient, half suffocated him with fumes and remarked.--"I used to think you were a good anaesthetist but I see now you are as slow as the rest of them. Speed, not safety, were his criteria. His knowledge of Surgery--he was joint author with Gask af a famous Handbook was only rivalled by his history of Westminster Hospital. He loved to tell of the 'bad old days' when there was a treasured frock coat, glossy with pus and blood that had been handed down from one Senior Surgeon to another at the Hospital and which was invariably worn at all major operations. Though not so spectacular as Stoneham, his influence on the students was very profound. -------

Dr Rhys Hamilton

08 November 2018, 20:12

Words in ((((---))) are mine--My name is Dr Rhys Hamilton-My Grandfather was Dr Rhys Bevan John
Referring to Walter George Spencer he tells us he was a senior surgeon at Westminster Hospital (the old one) when my grandfather was a medical student in the early 20th century. He (my grandfather) describes him in his autobiography which I am am currently transcribing- as--
"Possessed of that stern courage which all surgeons must possess, yet he always approached his patients with the upturned eyes and supplicating manner of an officiating priest. Profoundly learned, his surgical technique bore no comparison with Stoneham's swift sure strokes --(((Stoneham was another surgeon teaching him at Westminster))))--Yet his powers of diagnosis were uncanny --would that his technique were half so good.! --He belonged to that transition from pre- Listerian to Listerian Surgery. ((((This refers to Lister and his techniques for avoiding infection pre antibiotics)))) It was one of my tasks to see that he did not catch his head or turn up his trousers after he had 'Scrubbed up' for an operation!
In his heart of hearts I believe he despised these innovations as 'finicking'. Sometimes he frankly rebelled and, rubber gloves notwithstanding, would pluck at his moustache or smooth his hair. Sepsis was, accordingly, a common occurrence on his wards. As a diagnostician his acumen approached wizardry.
((((My Grandfather then goes on for a couple of handwritten pages to give some examples of some cases and other personal info about him --If you would like me to send these (once transcribed--I am happy to do so!))))

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.

Citationclose

How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.

Get Creative

Develop your art skills

Discover our BP Next Generation short films made by artists. Follow step by step guides in drawing and painting techniques.

Improve your skills

Hold Still

Hold Still photography workshop

Reflect on your own experiences of lockdown through this easy-to-do from home, photographic exercise. 

Watch the video

Draw Like a Renaissance Master

Revisit The Encounter exhibition and learn about Renaissance and Baroque drawing methods and materials.

Improve your technique