Eustace Cornelius

Librarian of the Royal College of Surgeons
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The Independent Online

From 1968 until 1986, Eustace Cornelius was the Librarian of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, who consolidated its transformation into a modern library, a task begun after the Second World War by his mentor William Le Fanu. This Cornelius managed to achieve without ever having to use a computer, he was gleefully pleased to record.

Born in India in 1925, the son of a senior civil engineer in the Indian Civil Service, he was given the middle name Hope because he was such a sickly baby that he was not expected to survive. One of the old school of librarians, Cornelius was highly literate but innumerate - he had to have special tuition to get him through mathematics in School Certificate at the King's School, Canterbury, although he was a scholarship boy.

From Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied Modern Languages, he went to London University for the librarianship course, then in 1948 started on 38 years' service with the Royal College of Surgeons library. Having assisted Le Fanu in its reconstruction after the bombing of the college during the war, he presided over its extensive use in the 1970s and 1980s by the staff and students of the Institute of Basic Medical Science and subsequently the Hunterian Institute.

Cornelius built up the Hunterian collection of the father of modern surgery, John Hunter, at the college and contributed historical papers to the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons, including "John Hunter as an Expert Witness" in 1978. As an obituary writer, he added 20th-century surgeons to the Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons.

For eight years from 1961, Cornelius was secretary of the medical section of the Library Association. At the Fifth International Congress of Medical Librarianship in Tokyo in 1985, he was one of a group of medical librarians who founded what became the European Association for Health Information and Libraries.

Laurence Dopson