Henry Percy Pickerill

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Henry Percy Pickerill (1879–1956) was a New Zealand dental surgeon and researcher, university administrator, plastic surgeon. Pickerill made major contributions to several fields of dentistry and medicine both in New Zealand and overseas.

Early life[edit]

Pickerill, known to his family as Percy was born in Hereford, Herefordshire, England, on 3 August 1879, the oldest child of Thomas Pickerill and Mary Ann Gurney.[1] His father was at the time a commercial clerk and was later the managing director of the Lugwardine Tile Works which made porcelain tiles. Pickerill attended Chandos School, the private Collegiate School of Hereford and then Hereford County College.[2] Upon completing his secondary education he enrolled at the University of Birmingham in 1900 with the intention of studying dentistry and medicine. He was awarded a LDSRCS (licentiate in dental surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of England) in 1903 and a BDS in 1904. The University of Birmingham was the first university in Great Britain to offer a BDS degree and Pickerill became the first graduate from this programme. Taking advantage of the dental and medical degrees sharing common courses, Pickerill was able to graduate with a MBChB in 1905.

Upon graduating Pickerill worked in a dental practice in Hereford and as a clinical demonstrator in the dental department of the General Hospital in Birmingham. In 1906 he was appointed a lecturer in dental pathology and histology at the University of Birmingham. In 1906 he married Mabel Knott. In 1906 after seeing an advertisement he applied for and was appointed at the age of 28 to the position of first director of the Dental School at the University of Otago. His submitted CV included a claim that he had attended the University of Oxford. However, there is no record of him having attended the university.[3]

Immigration to New Zealand[edit]

In response to the restriction of entry to the dental profession in New Zealand was restricted to those who had completed a degree or certificate of proficiency in dental surgery a dental school was established by the University of Otago on 1 July 1907 with a temporary director assisted by 12 honorary dental surgeons. Pickerill reached Dunedin and took up his position in September 1907 on a salary of £500 a year.[3] The first three students started in early 1908 followed by another three in May of the same year. Since its opening the school had no shortage of patients to work on. However the school finances were plagued by a shortage of students and thus income, which was not resolved until a campaign led by acting Dean O.V. Davies, led to bursaries covering fees and living costs for dental students was established in 1917.

Service in World War 1[edit]

In June 1915 Pickerill received a commission as a territorial captain with the New Zealand Medical Corps. He was transferred to the newly established New Zealand Dental Corps (NZDC) in November 1915. In 1916 Pickerill took leave from his position at the University of Otago to serve overseas with the NZDC, departing New Zealand with the 20th Reinforcements NZEF on the troopship Athenic.[4] Arriving in England in March 1917 he was posted to the No 2 New Zealand General Hospital (Mount Felix Hospital)[5] at Walton-on-Thames, with orders to establish a unit for the treatment of jaw and facial injuries. The unit was transferred to the newly opened Queen's Hospital at Sidcup, in 1918. Pickerill was soon operating as a maxillofacial surgeon, gaining a reputation in the fields of facial reconstruction and plastic surgery despite no formal training or qualification in this field.[6]

The end of the war led to Pickerill, the unit, and the remaining 59 patients departing in March 1919 on the SS Tainui to New Zealand, where they established themselves in the Facial and Jaw Department at Dunedin Hospital. In June 1919 Pickerill was recognised for his service by being promoted to lieutenant-colonel and appointed an OBE. Pickerill continued overseeing the long-term care of the unit's patients until December 1921 when, after the closing of the unit, he returned full-time to his position at the Dental School.[7]

Return to New Zealand[edit]

Resuming his position as dean of the Dental School in 1919, Pickerill found that as the result of the work of O.V. Davies the number of students had increased and dentistry as a university discipline was well established. The existing building was now too small, Pickerill had to overcome a proposal by Auckland interests establish a rival dental school in that city. However he was able to convince the government that the dental school needed to be close to the country's only medical school. Approval for the construction of a new building was given in April 1924, and it opened in June 1926. Pickerill strongly opposed the proposal by Thomas Anderson Hunter to establish a child dental health service which would be staffed by school dental nurses who were to receive just 18 months' training. His efforts failed to prevent the establishment of the New Zealand School Dental Service in 1921.

Move to Sydney[edit]

Pickerill resigned from the University of Otago in 1927 to move to Sydney, where he specialised in plastic surgery. In 1933 he took up a post at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney as senior plastic surgeon.

Later career[edit]

On his return to New Zealand he and his wife Cecily Pickerill settled in Wellington opening Bassam Hospital in Lower Hutt in 1940; the hospital treated children with cleft palates and other conditions needing plastic surgery. He was also a Senior Plastic Surgeon at Wellington Hospital and, with Cecily, established plastic surgery for the Auckland Hospital Board. He retired in 1945.[8]


Henry Pickerill died at Pinehaven, Upper Hutt, New Zealand on 10 August 1956. His ashes were taken to England by his wife and daughter and scattered from a bridge at Holme Lacy over the River Wye near Hereford.


Pickerill was made an OBE in 1919, and a CBE in 1923.

Personal life[edit]

He married Mabel Louise Knott on 19 June 1906 at Birmingham. They had three sons and one daughter. After divorcing Mabel Pickerill, he married Cecily Mary Wise Clarkson who was 27 years his junior, at Sydney on 17 December 1934. They had one daughter, Margaret. Cecily was also a surgeon. She was made a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) in 1977 and died in July 1988.


Pickerill, H P. (1909). “Radicular Aberrations.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine2 (Odontol Sect): 145–61.

Pickerill, H P. (1909). “The medical aspect of dentistry and the necessity of dental instruction for medical students.” British Medical Journal 1 (2511): 394–97. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.2511.394.

Pickerill, H.P. (1912). "Some pathological conditions found in the teeth and jaws of Maori skulls in New Zealand". Proc of the Royal Soc of Medicine. Odontological Section, 5 (3): 155–165.

Pickerill, H P, and S T Champtaloup. (1913). “The bacteriology of the mouth in Maori children: Being Part of an Investigation into the Cause of Immunity to Dental Disease in the Maori of the Uriwera Country, N.Z.” British Medical Journal 2 (2762): 1482–83. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.2.2762.1482.

Pickerill, H.P. (1914). “On the Production of Narrow Jaws by the Mastication of Tough and Fibrous Foods: (Synopsis of Communication.).” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 7 (Odontol Sect): 92–100.

Pickerill, H.P. (1914). “Internal Secretions and Dental Caries: With Special Reference to Thyroid Insufficiency.” British Medical Journal 1 (2791): 1406–7. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.2791.1406.

Pickerill, H.P. (1916). “Treatment of fractured mandible accompanying gunshot wounds.” British Medical Journal 2 (2899): 105–7. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.2.2899.105.

Pickerill, H.P. (1918). “Arthroplasty of Temporo-Mandibular Joint for Ankylosis.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 11 (Odontol Sect): 87–89.

Pickerill, H.P. (1918). “The ‘Screw-Lever’ Splint.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 11 (Odontol Sect): 90–92.

Pickerill, H.P. (1919). “Intra-Oral Skin-Grafting: The Establishment of the Buccal Sulcus.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 12 (Odontol Sect): 17–22.

Pickerill, H.P. (1927). “Non-Eruption of Teeth.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 20 (5): 603–5.

Pickerill, H. P. and Pickerill, C. M. (1945). "Early Treatment of Bell’s Palsy". British Medical Journal, 2 (4422): 457–459. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.2.4422.457

Pickerill, H. P. and Pickerill, C. M. (1945). "Elimination of Cross-infection". British Medical Journal, 1 (4387): 159–160. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.4387.159

Pickerill, H. P. and Pickerill, C. M. (1945). "Ectopia vesicae". The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery, 15: 91–98.

Pickerill, H P. (1946). “The Advantages of Early Skin Grafting.” The New Zealand Medical Journal 45 (February): 45–49.

Pickerill, H P. (1946). “Save the Foreskins.” The New Zealand Medical Journal 45 (June): 238.

Pickerill, H P. (1947. “Note on Cranial Autoplasty.” The British Journal of Surgery 35 (138): 204–7. https://doi.org/10.1002/bjs.18003513814.

Pickerill, H P. (1948). “Plastic Surgery in the Treatment of Malignancy.” British Journal of Plastic Surgery 1 (3): 181–86.

Pickerill, H P. (1949). “Ligation of the Mandibular (Inferior Dental) Artery.” British Medical Journal 1 (4603): 527. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.4603.527-a.

Pickerill, H P. (1949). “Ligation of the Mandibular (Inferior Dental) Artery.” The New Zealand Dental Journal 45 (222): 241.

Pickerill, H P. (1950). “Pascal’s Law as Applied to Skin Grafting.” British Journal of Plastic Surgery 2 (4): 274–77.

Pickerill, H P. (1950). “Immediate Orthodontics.” The New Zealand Dental Journal 46 (225): 126–30.

Pickerill, H P. (1951). “Ombredanne’s Syndrome, Hyperpyrexia Pallida or Paleur Hyperthermie.” The New Zealand Medical Journal 50 (275): 51–55.

Pickerill, H P. (1951). “On the Possibility of Establishing Skin Banks.” British Journal of Plastic Surgery 4 (3): 157–65.

Pickerill, H P. (1951). “Sebaceoma Nasi, Adenoma Sebaceum (Rhinophyma).” The New Zealand Medical Journal50 (279): 502–3.

Pickerill, H P. (1952). “Hyperpyrexia Pallida and Its Prevention.” The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery 21 (4): 261–68. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1445-2197.1952.tb03416.x.

Pickerill, H P. (1954). “The Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup.” British Journal of Plastic Surgery 6 (4): 247–49.

Pickerill, H P. (1954). “Restoration of Palatal and Lip Defects.” The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery 24 (2): 144–46. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1445-2197.1954.tb05083.x.

Pickerill, H.P. and C. Pickerill (1954). Speech training for cleft palate patients. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs. 2nd ed. OCLC 220813251

Pickerill, C.M. and Pickerill, H. P. (1954). "Nursing by the mother and cross-infection". Lancet 267 (6838): 599–600. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(54)90382-7

Pickerill, C.M. and Pickerill, H. P. (1954). "Elimination of hospital cross-infection in children: nursing by the mother". Lancet, 266 (6809): 425–429. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(54)91137-x


  1. ^ Brown, R. Harvey. "Henry Percy Pickerill". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  2. ^ Meikle, p. 32.
  3. ^ a b Meikle, p. 34.
  4. ^ Meikle, p. 92.
  5. ^ Gibb, John "Pioneering Otago surgeon remembered," Otago Daily Times. 14 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  6. ^ Meikle, p. 94.
  7. ^ Meikle, p. 105.
  8. ^ "Henry Percy Pickerill". New Zealand Medical Journal. 55: 413–414, 514. 1956.


  • Brown, Harvey (2007). Pickerill: Pioneer in Plastic Surgery, Dental Education and Dental Research. Dunedin: Otago University Press. ISBN 978-1-877372-46-9.
  • Meikle, Murray C. (2013). Reconstructing Faces: The Art and Wartime Surgery of Gillies, Pickerill, McIndoe and Mowlem. Dunedin: Otago University Press. ISBN 978-1-877578-39-7.

See also[edit]

  • Brown, E., & Klaassen, M. F. (2018). "War, facial surgery and itinerant Kiwis: The New Zealand plastic surgery story". Australasian Journal of Plastic Surgery, 1(1): 51-63. [1]