William Turner (anatomist)

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"Sir William Turner" redirects here. For the soldier, see William Turner (British Army officer).

William Turner
William Turner in 1881
Eton Terrace, Edinburgh
The grave of Sir William Turner, Dean Cemetery

Sir William Turner KCB (7 January 1832 in Lancaster – 15 February 1916 in Edinburgh) was an English anatomist and was the Principal of the University of Edinburgh from 1903 to 1916.


Turner was educated at various private schools, and afterwards studied medicine at St. Bartholomew's hospital, and graduated M.B. from the University of London.[1] In 1854 he became senior demonstrator in anatomy at the University of Edinburgh. Turner was appointed Professor of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh in 1867.[1]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1877. His candidature citation read:" Member of the General Medical Council. – Formerly Examiner in Anatomy in the University of London, and Lecturer on Anatomy and Physiology at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Author of a Memoir on the Placentation of the Lemurs in the Philosophical Transactions 1876; and of papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society June 1854 June 1865 and December 1875 – Author of papers in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1860, 1865, 1870, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1875 and of numerous papers in the Proceedings of the Society. One of the founders and conductors of the Journal of Anatomy and Physiology and author of many papers in it. Eminent as an Anatomist and Physiologist."[2] Turner was best known as a brain surgeon, and published various valuable papers on the subject.[1] He wrote An Introduction to Human Anatomy: Including the Anatomy of the Tissues and also developed a set of eight anatomical charts for use in an anatomy laboratory or classroom of a medical school. The charts illustrate bones, ligaments, muscles, heart and arteries, veins and lungs, organs of digestion, nervous system, and organs of sense and voice.[3]

Turner held the position of president of the General Medical Council from 1898 to 1904, and in 1900 was president of the British Association.[1][4] He was elected President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland from 1890 to 1893.[5]

Honours and awards[edit]

He was knighted in 1886 and made a K.C.B. in 1901.[1] He received an honorary doctorate (LL.D.) from the University of St Andrews in February 1902.[6] In December 1909, the Town Council of Edinburgh awarded him Freedom of the City.[7]

Later life and death[edit]

In later life he lived at 6 Eton Terrace overlooking Dean Bridge.[8]

He died at Edinburgh 15 February 1916[1] and is buried in Dean Cemetery in the north section against the dividing wall to the original cemetery to the south. His wife Agnes Logan (1835-1908), and daughters, Margaret Constance Turner and Agnes Amy Turner, are buried with him.

He was the father of Dr Arthur Logan Turner.


Turner House in Pollock Halls of Residence at the University of Edinburgh is named after him.

Artistic Recognition[edit]

His sketch portait of 1884, by William Brassey Hole, is held by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Turner, Sir William". Encyclopædia Britannica. 32 (12th ed.). London & New York. p. 855. 
  2. ^ "Library and Archive catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 2012-03-03. 
  3. ^ "Anatomy: The Foundation of Medicine from Aristotle to Early Twentieth Century Wall Charts". University of Virginia Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. Retrieved 2014-08-05. 
  4. ^ "Turner, Sir William". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1780. 
  5. ^ "The Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland – Presidents of the Society" (PDF). The Anatomical Society. Retrieved 2012-10-21. 
  6. ^ "University intelligence". The Times (36691). London. 14 February 1902. p. 7. 
  7. ^ "Eminent Edinburgh Citizens. Two New Burgesses. An Interesting Ceremony". The Glasgow Herald. 11 December 1909. p. 10. Retrieved 25 February 2018. 
  8. ^ Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1888-89
  9. ^ https://www.nationalgalleries.org/search?object_types%5B29864%5D=29864&object_types%5B29875%5D=29875&periods%5B17%5D=17&periods%5B18%5D=18&periods%5B19%5D=19&page=12

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
William Muir
Principals of Edinburgh University
Succeeded by
James Alfred Ewing