Pair to Surgeon G.J.Guthrie, 29th Foot and Deputy Inspector,

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Lot 193
Pair to Surgeon G.J.Guthrie, 29th Foot and Deputy Inspector,

Sold for £ 27,600 (US$ 34,504) inc. premium
Pair to Surgeon G.J.Guthrie, 29th Foot and Deputy Inspector,
Military General Service 1793-1814, eight bars, Roleia, Vimiera, Talavera, Albuhera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Toulouse (G.J.Guthrie, Surgn 29th Foot & Dy Inspector); Spain, Officer's Gold Cross for Albuhera, in gold and enamel. Small bit of enamel damage to reverse of cross, otherwise good very fine. (2)


  • Surgeon George James Guthrie was born in London on the 1st May 1785, he was descended from an old Forfarshire family, one of whose members settled in Wexford. His grandfather fell fighting bravely for King William III at the Battle of the Boyne, his father served in The Royal Navy as a Surgeon. He was taught by an Abbe who had taken refuge in England at the first dawning of the French Revolution, Guthrie mastered French extremely well as a result, this held him in good stead in the Peninsula.

    When he reached the age of thirteen, Mr Rush, the then Inspector-General of Army Hospitals, suggested that he should enter the Army Medical Service, and promised him an appointment as soon as he should be able to hold one. With this opening in view, he became articled to Mr Phillips, a Surgeon in Pall mall, and a pupil of Dr.Hooper at the Marylebone Infirmary. While with Phillips he attended the lectures held at the Windmill Street Medical School by Dr.Baillie and Messrs. Cruikshank, Wilson and Thomas. After two years' hard work he went in June 1800 as "hospital mate" to the York Hospital, London. There was much work for him there, and he dressed for Mr Carpue and Surgeon-General Keate. A sudden change occured in March 1801, when Mr Keate decided to refuse to employ any hospital-mates who had not passed an examination at the Royal College of Surgeons. There were at the time four of these dressers, three immediately resigned their posts. Not so Guthrie, the very next day he put his name down for the College ordeal, and two days after he was successfully examined by Keate and Howard, receiving his membership diploma at the age of sixteen. In those days there was no age limit for candidates, but in the following year it was enacted that no one should receive the diploma unless he was of age. This enabled Guthrie to be the youngest member on the College Council. Mr Keate promoted him to a regimental assistant-surgeoncy, and he entered the 29th Regiment.

    In 1802 he accompanied the regiment to North America, and became full surgeon in 1806. On the 10th July 1808, Sir Arthur Wellesley sailed from Cork to the Peninsula with 10,000 men and Guthrie went with him, then only 23 years old. Guthrie was twice wounded, once in both legs by a musket-ball at the battle of Vimiera, and he nearly died of fever in the plains of Guardiana. He was present at Roliea, Vimiera, Oporto, Talavera, Albuhera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Elboden, Sucaparte, Sabujal, Salamanca and Toulouse. He was also at the two seiges of Badajos and that of Olivenca.

    In January 1810 he was promoted to be Surgeon to the Forces, and in 1811 was attached to the fourth division, and found himself the chief medical officer at Albuhera of nearly three divisions of cavalry and infantry, and, after the engagement, in charge of 3,000 wounded. In 1812 he was appointed Deputy-Inspector of Hospitals, with charge of seven divisions of cavalry and infantry and a large hospital at Madrid. here he was allowed to use his own discretion, and no one better deserved the honour. In the retreat from Salamanca it was entirely owing to his activity and promptitude that the sick were not lost. After his arduous services Guthrie began to experience the usual gratitude of a British Government. The medical authorities at home refused to gazette his appointment as Deputy-Inspector on the score of his youth, and promoted many men above him. This roused the wrath of Wellington, who in his despatches made some very caustic remarks to this injustice.

    He returned to England in 1814 and was placed on half-pay. He then attended the anatomical and surgical lectures in Windmill Street from 1814-15, as well as those by Abernethy and the practice at the Lock and Westminster Hospitals and the City Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye. He started in civil practice but found it tough, however having revolutionised military surgery saved many limbs which would have been condemened by others.

    In 1815 he did not rejoin the army despite being encouraged by his friends. After Waterloo he set out for Brussels. There he performed but two operations both were successful. One an amputation at the hip, was done on a Frenchman. The second was that of a private in the German legion, whose right leg was pierced by a musket ball which wounded the peroneal artery. Guthrie cut down and ligatured the ends of the vessel, and the amn made a perfect recovery, his leg having been originally condemned to amputation. This operation was considered to be no small triumph for English surgery, as Dupuytren had been unsuccessful in a similar case, and had declared Guthrie's procedure to be impracticable.

    With his trip to Brussels Guthrie had lost his only two private patients who never spoke to him again. As he was still on half-pay his prospects were not great. However his friend Sir James McGrigor, gave him two large wards in the York Hospital, and promised him all the worst cases. Here he did duty for two years, at the end of which time the hospital was broken up. In 1816 he started a gratuitous course of lectures to the Army and Navy Medical departments, and these were continued for no less than twenty years. During this time he approcahed McGrigor and suggested they should found an infirmary for diseases of the eye. The scheme was supported by the Dukes of York and Wellington, Guthrie being appointed surgeon, and Dr.Forbes pysician. In 1827 a site was found for it close to Charing Cross, and the Royal Westminster Opthalmic Hospital was created. However a few months in and a split occured and Forbes resigned. Comments were written in the Lancet and Guthrie brought an action against the editor, although it was felt that Forbes had given the Lancet the information. Guthrie further challenged the house pupil a Mr Thompson for insulting language, and a meeting took place on Clapham Common on the 29th December 1827, where three shots were exchanged without effect. Forbes subsequently published two pamphlets, containing all the correspondence, in his own defence.
    By this resignation Guthrie he took sole charge of the institution, until in 1838 his son Charles was appointed assistant surgeon.
    In 1834 he was elected a member of the council of the College of Surgeons, thus starting another branch of usefulness in his career. In July 1828 he became an examiner, in which capacity he was greatly disliked and feared by sudents for his severity and brusque manner. He became Professor of Anatomy and Surgery to the college, a post which he held for four years, delivering lectures on the following subjects: "The Anatomy and Physiology of the Arterial System; Injuries and Diseases of the Arteries; The Anatomy and Surgery of Hernia; The anatomy, human and comparative, of the Eye, and its Diseases".

    In 1831-32 he was vice-president of the college, and in 1833 he became president, a post he also filled in 1841 and 1854. In 1834 he delivered the introductory lecture and opened the Westminster Hospital medical School in dean Street, which he was mainly instrumental in founding. On the death of Mr White in 1848, Guthrie became consulting surgeon to the hospital, an appointment he had before declined. he was now approaching the close of his eventful, long, and useful life, saddened by the premature death of his eldest son, the Rev. Lowry Guthrie, a loss which decided him against accepting a baronetcy.

    He took a lively interest in the surgical work of the Crimean War and in 1856 he published several cases in the Lancet which occured during that campaign. he had suffered from a bad winter cough for over twenty years, he died on the 1st May 1856, aged 71 following a severe fit of coughing. He was buried at Kensal Green.

    Over his lifetime he produced many articles and lectures and these were even translated into foreign languages for allied armies to benefit.

    The lot comes with a variety of research etc.
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