An English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled in Sir Victor Horsley’s honour at no 129 Gower Street, one of his London homes, on 17th June 2015

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Surgeons from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) paid tribute to early pioneer Sir Victor Horsley during a ceremony to celebrate his lifetime achievements.

The plaque (the first in honour of a neurosurgeon) was unveiled by his sole surviving grand-daughter, Corinna Rock.

Sir Victor, who died nearly a hundred years ago, was neurosurgeon to University College Hospital and the NHNN and the first to be appointed to a hospital position in 1886, when he undertook his first brain operation.

The National Hospital didn’t have an operating theatre so he modified a day room. He performed the first operation in the world to remove a spinal tumour the following year.

During his career at the National Hospital he successfully transformed patients’ lives by performing ground-breaking epilepsy, spinal tumour, vascular and brain surgery, in an era where there were no x-rays or antibiotics. He also paved the way for future pituitary treatment, due to his work on the thryoid.

The National Hospital has a ward and department after him in honour of his contribution to neurosurgery.

Retired NHNN neurosurgeon Michael Powell, who campaigned for the plaque, was determined to keep his memory alive:

“When I arrived 32 years ago at the NHNN he was a forgotten man. One of the wards had been dedicated to him and carried his name - but no one was quite sure why. He was just 27 years old when he became the first hospital neurosurgeon in 1886 and was a pioneer and we felt it was important to continue to publicly recognise his achievements.”

In addition to his pioneering neurosurgical work, Sir Victor Horsley was a powerful debater and orator, reforming a number of medical organisations including the GMC and BMA, and was a passionate social reformer who very prominently supported causes such as female suffrage .

(Image L-R: Consultants Michael Gleeson, Richard Kerr, Joan Grieve, Richard Nelson, Jonathan Pollock, Laurence Watkins, Neil Kitchen, Michael Powell )

Further information

See also handout from Victor Horsley: a continuing legacy: commemorating the centenary of Horsley’s death exhibition and Sir Victor Horsley (1857-1916): A Heart of Gold video tribute