Friday, 3 February 2012

Plaque of the Week No.105: Frederick Treves

You've seen them all over the city: discs, tablets, cameos and plaques commemorating the great and the good of London Town. Friday is our new day for tracking down London plaques (Blue or otherwise) and putting them centre stage on the Daily Constitutional. This week…

105: Frederick Treves

Where: 6 Wimpole Street, Westminster, W1

A plaque is the least tribute for a man who saved the life of the king.

In 1901 the surgeon Frederick Treves performed an appendectomy on King Edward VII. In the early 20th century appendicitis was not usually the subject of surgical treatment and the condition boasted a high mortality rate. Treves had performed the world’s first appendectomy in 1888.

Treves’s surgical procedure on King Edward VII – an operation that was performed against the king’s initial wishes – not only saved the king’s life (turning potential tragedy into the mere inconvenience of the postponement of his coronation) but saw the operation become standard medical practice.

It is said that the day after the operation, the King was fit enough to sit up in bed and puff on one of his beloved cigars.

Treves is also famed as the man who brought Joseph Merrick – the Elephant Man – to the London Hospital in Whitechapel. Treves wrote at length about Merrick and his condition. In David Lynch’s film The Elephant Man, Treves is played by Sir Anthony Hopkins.


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