William Worrall Mayo, who began the practice that would become the world-renowned clinic, was born in Salford, near Manchester, on May 31, 1819, to a joiner and farmer's daughter. While growing up amid the upheaval of the Industrial Revolution, he developed a philosophy of giving back to society through service — in his case, through medical science.
William Worrall Mayo became a protégé of the eminent Manchester scientist John Dalton, founder of the modern atomic theory and author of the Periodic Table of Elements. Dalton inspired him with the rigors of the scientific method — as well as the Quaker values of tolerance and working together for the common good.
In 1846, at the age of 27, William Worrall Mayo emigrated from England to the United States. He brought his English sensibility to the New World, where he earned two medical degrees and ultimately opened a medical practice in Rochester, Minnesota, during the American Civil War. The works of John Locke, Edmund Burke and Charles Darwin filled the shelves of his home and remain treasures of the Mayo Clinic Library today.
His sons, William J. (Dr. Will) and Charles H. (Dr. Charlie), joined their father's practice in the 1880s and gradually took on partners whose skills complemented their own. When announcing a discovery or accepting an award, they often used the phrase, "Our father taught us" and spoke in terms of "My brother and I." From the sense of mutual trust and high expectation within the family, Mayo Clinic evolved into an organization based on collegiality, teamwork and absolute dedication to serving others.
A new way to practice medicine
Before long, young physicians sought educational opportunities at Mayo Clinic, and the institution developed the world's first systematic program of graduate medical education. At other institutions, junior medical staff members were treated as lackeys, but the Mayo brothers wanted a different approach. They adopted the term "fellow" from the English universities as a term of respect for the physicians in training at Mayo Clinic.
Dedicated to teaching and learning, the Mayo brothers made dozens of international trips during the era of travel by steamboat and railroad. Their practice was for one brother to stay home while the other journeyed, in alternate schedules. The only exception came in 1929, when both Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie received honorary degrees from the University of Manchester — among the many high honors bestowed upon them in the U.K. throughout their careers, including designation as Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons in England and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
In accepting the invitation to Manchester, Dr. Will wrote to his host:
“As happens in so many English families, we were brought up from childhood to follow in the father’s footsteps, and our father’s memory is very dear to us. The consideration that we should be visiting the country of his birth and the city where he lived and received his earlier education, of which he always spoke with the greatest gratitude, has been the deciding factor which has induced us to depart from our usage.”
Giving back to their father's birthplace
During the trip to Manchester, the brothers dedicated a memorial window they had commissioned for their father in the church where he was baptized, St. Mary the Virgin in Eccles Parish, Salford. Francis H. Spear, a highly regarded artisan in London, created the work. By an interesting coincidence, Saint Marys also is the name of the hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, where the Mayo brothers achieved global fame as surgeons.
Fragile and beautiful, the Mayo Memorial Window survived aerial attack during the blitz of World War II, even as Nazi bombs shattered other windows in the church on Christmas Eve 1940.
In 2009, the English heritage of Mayo Clinic came full circle with the dedication of the Mayo Building at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. The Mayo Building in Salford includes state-of-the-art educational facilities that would make John Dalton and his young student proud.
The logo of Mayo Clinic depicts three interlocking shields, which represent our core commitment to patient care, research and education. In terms of aesthetics, this logo may evoke the crest that the Mayo family used on bookplates, sterling silver and other insignia. In terms of humanitarian work, Mayo's threefold commitment derives from the values that William Worrall Mayo developed as a young man in England. These values enable Mayo Clinic to continue our tradition of serving patients and advancing medical science in the 21st century.
Experience Mayo's Model of Care at home
With Mayo Clinic Healthcare located in London, Mayo Clinic expanded our services to people in the U.K. Now you can access Mayo's world-class expertise without having to travel to America. Mayo Clinic Healthcare gives you access to more than 4,000 experts in virtually every medical specialty, including rare and complex conditions.