Doctor Agnes Forbes Blackadder-Savill

Dr Agnes Forbes Savill served with the Scottish Women’s Hospitals as a radiologist, at the Royaumont Hospital during WW1. She is entitled to the British War and Victory Medals, French Médailles des épidémies 1st class. She also received the Scottish Women’s Hospitals Medal 1914, bronze. Her medals were sold at auction in December 2012.

She was born on 4th December 1875 in Dundee, Scotland. Her father, Robert, was an architect and civil engineer.

29 March 1895: She graduated first from the University of St. Andrews and received the degree of Master of Arts. She was the first female graduate from St-Andrews University.

She went on to study at University College, Dundee in 1897/1898 and Queen Margaret College for Women in the University of Glasgow. According to the University of Glasgow website “She was a gifted medical student. In addition to taking first prize in Practical Pathology in 1896, she had a string of First Class Certificates in Materia Medica, Surgery, Midwifery, Ophthalmology and Insanity and a Second Class Certificate in Anatomy,”

She graduated on 21st July 1898 obtaining an MB and ChB, and her MD in 1901.

She married Dr. Thomas Dixon Savill at the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Forfarshire in 1901.

After her marriage her career took her to London, where she became a consultant in Dermatology and Electro-therapeutics. She also gained experience in radiological work, which would prove very useful during the war.

In 1904 she became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

June 5th, 1905: She arrived in Glasgow, Scotland from New-York, United-States on the Numidian

In 1907 she had the distinction of being appointed as a consultant to a hospital which was not exclusively for women, St. John’s Hospital for Skin Diseases. In addition she was a consultant at the South London Hospital for Women. At the same time as making a successful career for herself in London, she was a respected suffragette.

1910: Her husband died

1911 United Kingdom Census: Listed as a physician and living at 38 Audley House, Margaret Street, London W

November 12th : She arrived in Glasgow, Scotland from New-York, United States on Caledonia

In 1912 she was one of three distinguished doctors (the other two being male surgeons), who conducted an inquiry into the appalling treatment of women hunger strikers in prison and published papers on the subject.

At the same time, she also went out to France for several work periods, returning to her post in London when she could, usually in the winter when there was a lull in the fighting. Her great contribution was in making the best use of a state-of-the-art x-ray car which they had been given, courtesy of the French General Le Bon. She had an acute appreciation of the dangers and mechanisms of gas gangrene and worked hard to mitigate its effects with prompt diagnosis and treatment. Her studies of the x-ray appearances of the gangrene were pioneering. She trained staff and threw herself into the work so selflessly that in July 1918, during a particularly busy period, it was noted that she looked ill and ‘absolutely cavernous’.

She developed an interest in Dermatology and became a Physician to the Skin Hospital, Leicester Square, London.

Early in the Great War she joined the staff of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, entering France in May 1915. Serving at Royaumont Hospital, about 25 miles from Paris, she was placed in charge of the x-ray and electro-therapy departments. She served there until the end of 1916.

Her military medals

click on the image to enlarge

She returned to London after the war and lived first at 66 Harley Street and later 7 Devonshire Place.

July 24th, 1919: She arrived in Glasgow, Scotland from Boston, United State on the Massilia.

While continuing to pursue her own career, she also undertook to edit her husband’s textbook, Savill’s System of Clinical Medicine, a task she continued to do up to 1942. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, only the sixth woman to receive this honour. Her intellectual interests continued to grow.
Agnes recognised how powerful an influence music could be, and wrote a book about its importance to well-being, entitled Music, Health and Character. Its publication in 1923 caused a stir and later led to the establishment of the Council for Music in Hospitals.

From 1923 to 1938 she was living in St Marylebone, Westminster

October 11th, 1937: She arrived in Southampton, England from New-York, United States o the Berengaria

She was the author of several books and papers on her own subjects; she was also editor of her late husband’s Clinical Medicine.

In 1955 she published the book Alexander the Great and his Times which can still be bought on Amazon

She was still seeing patients into her seventies.

She died on 12 May 1964. She left 58 552 GBP

Picture of Doctor Agnes Forbes Blackadder-Savill, she is forth from the right

click on the images to enlarge

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  • byrnedj  On 2013/06/14 at 13:34

    Than you for posting this! Agnes was my great grandfather’s sister. What an inspiring woman. I had shared the first photo you posted with St. Andrews. University where did you find the second? It is wonderful. Do you have (or know of links to) any others?
    I am posting a link to your page on our family history website which is still being “created” best wishes – D Byrne

  • Medic  On 2013/06/14 at 16:44

    this is the link where I got those pictures and part of her story

    Indeed she was a very inspiring woman and an early precursor. When I stumbled on her story last December, I knew I had to write a small post on her here.

  • byrnedj  On 2013/06/16 at 06:15

    Thanks again. Very interesting website. The stories and photos bring the past to life. Well done!

  • best dermatologist toronto  On 2013/08/06 at 13:30

    Everyone loves what you guys are up too.
    Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve you guys to blogroll.

  • Benson  On 2015/06/27 at 02:46

    Master your past in the present, or your past will master your future.see more

  • Simon Szreter  On 2016/08/20 at 14:08

    Do you know of the location of any archive of the private papers and research materials of Dr Agnes Savill’s? I’m a professional historian trying to find some research materials (several hundred responses to a detailed questionnaire she collected on middle-class marriages which were sent to her at 66 Harley Street in 1913 or 1914). She would have passed them on to a contemporary Major Greenwood, who published a statistical analysis of them in 1920 but its possible the originals may have been returned to her as the originator of the research project.

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