Harold Stiles

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Harold Jalland Stiles
Sir Haroln Stiles.png
Born 1863
Died 1946
Nationality British
Occupation Surgeon

Sir Harold Jalland Stiles K.B.E., F.R.C.S. (1863–1946) was a British surgeon who was known for his research into cancer and tuberculosis and for treatment of nerve injuries.

Early years[edit]

Harold Stiles was born in Spalding, Lincolnshire in 1863.[1] He came from a family of doctors.[2] He studied at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1885 as an M.B., C.M. He earned the Ettles scholarship for the most distinguished graduate of the year. For two years he then taught anatomy at Edinburgh.[1] He was House Surgeon to Professor John Chiene, Demonstrator in the University Department of Anatomy under Sir William Turner, and Assistant in Charge of Pathology in the university's surgical laboratory.[2]

In 1889 Stiles was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.[1] He trained for six months under Professor Theodore Kocher in Bern, where he learned to follow the aseptic system of surgery rather than Listerian antisepsis.[2] Stiles was the first surgeon to use the aseptic approach in Edinburgh.[1]

Later career[edit]

Stiles was appointed assistant surgeon at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh and assistant surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. He was later made Surgeon at the Sick Children's Hospital in succession to Joseph Bell.[1] He taught at the Children's Hospital for many years, and during this period he or his assistants published important papers on surgical tuberculosis, earning him recognition throughout the medical world. At the same time he worked at the Chalmers Hospital. He lectured on Applied Anatomy at the university, and became known as an extremely skilled anatomist and surgeon.[3] Around 1909 he visited the United States, meeting the surgical staff at the Mayo Clinic.[4]

During World War I (1914–1918) Stiles was a member of the Military Services Commission in France and then Director of Military Orthopaedics for Scotland.[1] He was responsible for treating wounded soldiers in the Military Surgical Division at the Bangour hospital, and for his achievements was awarded a knighthood in 1918.[2] In 1919 he was appointed Regius Professor of Clinic Surgery at Edinburgh University, holding this position for six years before retiring.[1] He was also appointed to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he organized a surgical unit and pathological laboratory and provided practical courses in surgery.[3] In 1923 Stiles visited Harvard University, temporarily replacing Professor Harvey Williams Cushing. For two weeks he taught clinical surgery and was surgeon to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.[5] From 1923 to 1925 he was President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.[6]

Harold Stiles died in his home in Gullane, East Lothian, in 1946, aged 83.[1]


Stiles showed that tuberculosis of bones, joints and cervical lymph nodes was often caused by the bovine form of the tubercle bacillus.[2] He earned international recognition for his research into the anatomy of the breast and the pathology of breast cancer.[2] In 1886 he was the first person to win the Walker Prize from the Royal College of Surgeons, awarded for this research.[1] Where some experts in cancer treatment, such as Joseph Colt Bloodgood, used pathological techniques to determine whether a lesion was malignant, Stiles did not believe this was necessary. In 1908 he said "a knowledge of the histological structure of a lump in the breast is of little value for the patient unless the surgeon can associate it with a correct life history. With this knowledge at his command, it will be very rarely necessary for the surgeon to be supported in the operating theatre by an expert pathologist armed with a freezing microtome."[7]

Stiles was the first surgeon to transplant the ureter into the sigmoid colon as a treatment for extraversion of the bladder.[2] On 3 February 1910 he performed the first pyloromyotomy, a surgery to correct congenital hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, the congenital narrowing of the path between the stomach and the intestines in infants. However, the procedure is named for Dr. Wilhelm Ramstedt, who did the surgery seven months later on July 28, 1911.[8]

Stiles was greatly interested in orthopaedic surgery, which may have been due to the demands that many of these operations made on anatomical knowledge, in which he excelled.[9] He undertook many orthopaedic operations for wounded soldiers at the EMS Hospital at Bangour.[10] He learned how to treat nerve injuries at the Scottish Military Hospital at Bangour, and became famous for this pioneering work.[1] The noted American orthopedic surgeon Paul B. Steele served under Harold Stiles from 1917 to 1918, where he was taught the techniques of war surgery before joining the army in France.[11] Gertrude Herzfeld served as house surgeon to Stiles at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, from 1814-1817, becoming the first female surgeon in Scotland and the first female pediatric surgeon. LeRoy Charles Abbott of California studied under Stiles in 1919–1920, and became renowned for his work in orthopedic surgery.[12]

Notes and references[edit]