Sir Peter Freyer49th Sir Peter Freyer Surgical Symposium


Sir Peter Freyer

(1851 -1921)

Peter Freyer was born on 2nd of July 1851 and was baptised in the parish of Ballinakill, Co Galway on the 26th of July. He was the eldest son of Samuel Freyer, a small land owner of Sellerna, near Cleggan and his wife Celia Burke.

At the time of Griffith’s Valuation in 1855, Samuel Feyer was in possession of 17 acres at Moorneen and a house, office and land in Knockbrack, both town lands in the parish of Omey (Clifden). In 1876, when the list of landowners of more than one acre was compiled, Samuel Freyer of Claghacurra, Clifden, was recorded as having 210 acres.

Samuel Freyer’s eldest son was named Peter Johnson after his parental grandfather, a chief officer in the coastguard service. Although his mother was a Roman Catholic, Peter Freyer and his siblings were brought up as Protestants.

Peter Freyer went to the Erasmus Smith School in Galway and won a scholarship to attend the Queen’s College, Galway. He had a distinguished academic career at the College, obtaining in 1872 a first class honors degree in Arts and winning the gold medal.

He studied medicine for another 2 years, including a period as resident pupil at Dr Steven’s Hospital in Dublin. He won another gold medal when he was conferred in 1874.

He then spent a brief time working in Paris. On his return he came first in the competitive examination for a commission as a medical officer in the Indian Medical Service. He filled the post of acting civil surgeon at Azamgarh from April 1877 and from 1878 he began to publish articles in the Indian Medial Journal.

Many thanks to Sir Peter Freyer’s Family in particular his grandson, Patrick Freyer for presenting the Department of Sugery with this Memorabilia. 

A special thanks to Mr Kieran Hoare, Archivist, James Hardiman Library, University of Galway, for compiling a book of all the Freyer records and for supplying images for this presentation.

Timeline – Sir Peter Johnson Freyer

K.C.B., M.D., M.Ch., M.A. (Hons. Caus.), L.L.D. (Hons. Caus.)

Sir Peter Freyer

1851 – Born July 2nd, first son of Samuel Freyer, Salerna, Connemara, Co Galway and his wife Celia Burke

Educated – Erasmus Smith College, Galway (Galway Grammar School) and Queen’s College, Galway

1869 – Entered Science section of Faculty of Arts, Queen’s College, Galway

1872 – B.A., First Class Honours and Gold Medal, Queen’s College, Galway Headed list of scholars in Science Division of Faculty of Arts, 1869-70, 70-71, 71-72

1873 – Senior Scholarship in Chemistry, Faculty of Arts, Queen’s College, Galway. Resident pupil, Dr. Stephen’s Hospital, Dublin

1874 – Graduated Queen’s College, Galway, M.D., M.Ch., with Scholarship, Gold Medal and First Class Honours. Was awarded Gold Medal in Diploma of Obstetrics examination, and Senior Scholarship in Natural Philosophy, Faculty of Arts

1875 – First Place, Indian Medical Service (I.M.S.)

1886 – M.A. – Royal University of Ireland (Hons. Caus.)

1887 – Surgeon Major, I.M.S.

Bigelow's lithotrite tool
Surgical tools group

1894 – Delegate from the Indian Government to the International Medical Congress at Rome where he presented a paper “Eight hundred and Fifty-two Operations for Stone in the Bladder”. In 598 patients the bladder stones were removed by transurethral lithopaxy using the method of Bigelow with an astonishingly low mortality for that time of 1.84%. This contrasted to a mortality of 12.5% for lithotomy (open operation) popular at that time in British Hospitals.

1895 – Lieutenant-Colonel, I.M.S.

1896 – Retired from the I.M.S. with Honorary rank of Colonel

1897 – Elected to the staff of St Peter’s Hospital for Stone, London

1900 – Performed first enucleative prostatectomy on John Thomas who lived in the Birdkeeper’s Lodge, in St James’ Park, London

1901 – Published first four cases of Prostatectomy, (BMJ 11,125: 1901)

1904 – Awarded the Arnott Memorial Medal for Surgical Research by the Irish Medical Schools and Graduates Association

1912 – Published first 1,000 cases of Prostatectomy (BMJ 11,869: 1912); he had a mortality of only 3% in his last 200 cases

1914 – Re-joined the I.M.S. but worked in England in Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, Millbank, in the Eastern Command

1917 – Commander of the Order of Bath. Knight’s Commander of the Order of Bath

1919 – Retired from the I.M.S. L.L.D. University College, Galway (Hons. Caus.)

1920 – Elected first President in Section of Urology of the Royal Society of Medicine

1921 – On 9th September, Sir Peter died at 27 Harley Street, London and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Clifden

Sir Peter married Isabelle McVittie, daughter of Robert McVittie of Dublin. They had one son – Dermot Johnston and one daughter – Kathleen Mary. Isabelle died in 1914. Grandson Michael died in 2002. Grandson Patrick is living in Ireland.

Published Books:

Litholapaxy, 1885, with enlarged edition in 1886 and 1896.

Stone of the Bladder, 1900.

Stricture of the Urethra and Enlargement of the Prostate, 1901. 3rd Edition 1906.

Surgical Disease of the Urinary Organs, 1908.

Articles on Disease of the Prostate and Vesical Calculus in Burghard’s Operative Surgery, Vol. III, 1907.

The Modern Treatment of Stone in the Bladder
Separator graphic

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