BANKS, William Mitchell   [1842-1904]

Banks, Sir (William) Mitchell (1842–1904), surgeon, was born in Edinburgh on 1 November 1842, the son of Peter Spalding Banks, solicitor, and his wife, Ann Williamson.  In 1864 he graduated MD with honours from Edinburgh University . After graduating he was demonstrator of anatomy for a short time to Professor Allen Thomson, at the University of Glasgow. Afterwards he went to Paraguay, where he acted as surgeon for the republican government.

In 1864 Banks settled at Liverpool, making his home at 28 Rodney Street L1 where he lived the rest of his life. In 1874 he married Elizabeth Rathbone, daughter of John Elliott, a merchant of Liverpool. They had two sons, one of whom, Reginald, became a prominent judge and Conservative M.P. He began his career at Liverpool at the school of medicine at the infirmary, where he was first first demonstrator and then lecturer on anatomy.  In addition Banks was pathologist and curator of the museum, and he succeeded Reginald Harrison as assistant surgeon to the Royal Infirmary at Liverpool in 1875. He was full surgeon there from 1877 until November 1902, when he was appointed consulting surgeon.

Banks is remembered for his pioneering appraoch to syrgery in cases of breast cancer. He advocated radical mastectomy  and in the face of strenuous opposition he carried out extensive operations involving the removal of the axillary glands when most surgeons were content with the older practice of partial removal. He made this latter treatment the topic of his Lettsomian lectures at the Medical Society of London in 1900. Banks was one of the team who built up the fortunes of the medical school at Liverpool. Having found it at a very low ebb he and his associates worked hard to raise its quality first to that of a top medical college and finally to that of a well-equipped medical faculty at a modern university. 

Banks died suddenly at the Karlsbad Hotel, Aachen, Germany, on 9 August 1904, while on his way home from Homburg, and was buried in the Smithdown Road cemetery, Liverpool. His wife survived him. The William Mitchell Banks lectureship at Liverpool University was founded and endowed by his fellow citizens in his memory in 1905

28 Rodney Street L1

Banks' home throughout his time in Liverpool.


There is a comprehensive entry for Adshead in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The Wikipedia entry gives a general account of his life.