Frederick Howard Marsh

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(Frederick) Howard Marsh
Howard Marsh. Photogravure after Stearn & Sons. Wellcome V0026818.jpg
Born (1839-03-07)7 March 1839
Homersfield, Suffolk, England
Died 24 June 1915(1915-06-24) (aged 76)
Cambridge, England
Occupation Surgeon
Professor of surgery
Master of Downing College, Cambridge
Spouse(s) 1. Jane Perceval (1870)
2. Violet Susan Hay (1899)
Children Edward Marsh
Margaret Helen Marsh/Maurice (1875-1942)
Parent(s) Edward Brunning Marsh (1809-1876)
Maria Haward

Frederick Howard Marsh (7 March 1839 – 24 June 1915), known as Howard Marsh, was a surgeon and academic. From 1907 until his death he was Master of Downing College, Cambridge.[1][2]


Howard Marsh was born in 1839[3] in a small village in eastern England, near Bungay, on the Suffolk / Norfolk border.[1] His father, Edward Brunning Marsh,[4] is described as a "gentleman farmer",[3] of Homersfield, on the Waveney, Suffolk. His mother Maria, née Haward, daughter of Charles and Maria,[5] came from Brook, near Norwich.[4] The Marsh family was 'old-established East Anglian farming stock', originally from Eye.[6]

He studied at St Bartholomew's Hospital ("Bart's") in London, where he signed on in December 1858, becoming a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in June 1861.[7] He was appointed house surgeon at the hospital in 1862, working under Frederic Skey.[7] He obtained his F.R.C.S. diploma in 1866 and in 1868 was appointed Administrator of Chloroform.[7] He held a succession of progressively more senior appointments as assistant surgeon before eventually becoming a full surgeon in 1891.[3] By this time he had already, since 1868, worked as a surgeon at the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street (as it was then known) where he became full surgeon in 1879 and consulting surgeon in 1888.[7] Also in the late 1860s Marsh became surgeon to the Queen Square House of Relief for Children with Chronic Disease of the Joints,[3] an establishment founded "in great part through the exertions of Miss Perceval".[7] Howard Marsh married Jane Perceval, the grand daughter of an assassinated British prime minister, in 1870.[8]

In 1903 Marsh was appointed Professor of Surgery at Cambridge University[1] in belated succession to Sir George Murray Humphry (who had died in 1896).[3] Marsh resigned from his post at Bart's and relocated to Cambridge, becoming a fellow of Kings College.[1] Four years later he relocated again, half a mile to the south, becoming Master of Downing College, Cambridge.[2]

As Master of Downing College Marsh resisted government pressure to restrict access for students from India, then an important British Colony.[2] Approximately one third of all Indian students attending Cambridge University during the early years of the twentieth century chose Downing College: Marsh attributed this to the college's reputation for excellent teaching of law, a subject favoured by India's burgeoning mercantile classes.[2] Government pressure was part of a wider political strategy to limit anti-colonial activism in British universities.[2] After consulting with fellow members of the college governing body Marsh politely rejected the British minister's request to restrict admissions in a way which would have been "a rebuff to Indian students".[2]


Marsh was father to the polymath Edward Marsh and father-in-law of the controversial general and writer, Frederick Barton Maurice. A grand daughter was the economist Joan Robinson.


  1. ^ a b c d Who was who 1897-1916. A companion volume to "Who's who" containing the biographies of those who died during the period 1897-1916. London: A & C Black limited. 1919.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Teresa Seguar-Garcia (2015). "Downing College and India: Frederick Howard Marsh is not one of Downing's best-remembered Masters. However, ...". Downing College Magazine Winter 2014-2015. Downing College, Cambridge.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Frederick Howard Marsh (1839–1915)". Nature. 143: 369–370. 4 March 1939. doi:10.1038/143369d0. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b The Cambridge Medical School: A Biographical History, Sir Humphry Davy Rolleston, 1932, pg 221
  5. ^ A Memoir of Howard Marsh, Violet Susan Marsh, Murray, 1921, pg 2
  6. ^ A Memoir of Howard Marsh, Violet Susan Marsh, Murray, 1921, pg 1
  7. ^ a b c d e "Obituary: Frederick Howard Marsh MA Cantab, (Honoris Causa), M.C., Sc.D., F.R.C.S.Eng". British Medical Journal. 3 July 1915.
  8. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Alexander Hill (1888-1907)
Master of Downing College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Albert Seward (1915-1936)