Dr William Drewett Arnison

Personal details

Dr William Drewett Arnison MD MA(Hon) FFARCS MRCS LRCP

25/01/1865 to 27/01/1950

Place of birth: Allendale Town, Northumberland

Nationality: British

CRN: 715498

Education and qualifications

General education

Bellasis Grammar School, Crossgate, Durham; Durham University College of Medicine, Newcastle-upon-Tyne; St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, London (1886-7)

Primary medical qualification(s)

MBBS, Durham, 1886

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

MRCS LRCP, 1887; MD, Durham, 1890 (not known whether by thesis or examination)

Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

Having qualified in 1886 he spent another year as a student, but in London before being house surgeon & house physician at Newcastle Infirmary, and house surgeon in Hemel Hempstead after which he returned to Newcastle Infirmary as senior house physician. He then entered general practice and became medical officer to the Post Office, a position he held for many years. Appointed honorary anaesthetist (his predecessor had been ‘the chloroformist’!) to the Royal Infirmary in 1891, a post he held for 15 years, and during which time he was the only recognised anaesthetist in Newcastle, a situation which put many demands upon him and his time. However, in 1907 he gave up anaesthesia to take charge of the ‘electrical’ (radiology) department, a position he held until retirement in 1925 when he became honorary consulting physician.


Professional interests and activities

Described as a punctilious anaesthetist, he was a painstaking teacher who set high standards. Although it was long after he had ended his anaesthetic practice, a move which surprised many, he was very pleased with his election as FFARCS. He published little, but a lecture on the history of anaesthesia was well received. Involved with the RAMC well before WW1 (gazetted Major in 1909) he worked with the 1st Northen General Hospital, his service continuing until 1919 at least. After retirement he became honorary consultant physician, continued as a member of the hospital’s house committee, and served on Durham University Senate, being awarded an honorary degree (MA) for his services.

Other biographical information

Arnison was the fourth generation of a distinguished medical family in the north-east of England. He married Christine Mary Trustram and they had two daughters. His interests were wide, but poetry and aspects of history, especially military history, were prominent among them.  He assisted Prof Grey Turner with a history of the Newcastle Medical School.

Author and Sources

Author: Dr Robert Palmer & Prof Tony Wildsmith

Sources and any other comments: Obituary. BMJ 1950; 1: 442 | Ancestry.co.uk | Medical Directory | Steve Lightfoot | Durham University Library Archives and Special Collections | Ann Clouston OBE ARRC TD DL