Haughton, William Steele (1869–1951), surgeon and pioneer in radiology, was born 26 September 1869 in Dublin, fourth and youngest son among six children of Professor Samuel Haughton (qv), scientist and polymath, and his wife and cousin Louisa, daughter of John Haughton. Educated at the Abbey School, Co. Tipperary, and Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, he graduated BA with a gold medal (1891), MB (1894), and MD (1901) from TCD, where he became chief demonstrator in anatomy (1894–9). He served as assistant surgeon (1895–9) to Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, Dublin, before beginning a long connection with Dr Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin, where he was surgeon (1899–1948), consulting surgeon (1948–1951), and governor from 1917.
A pioneer in Ireland of the clinical use of X-rays, within six weeks of W. C. Röntgen's report of his discovery, Haughton purchased an X-ray unit in London in March 1896, made his own radiographs, and in April advised the board of Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital to install X-ray apparatus. His paper ‘Some applications of the X-rays in diagnosis’, given 7 May 1897 to the section of pathology of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Ireland, was the first published in Ireland on radiology (Transactions of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, xv (1897), 404–9). Basing it on one hundred and fifty cases, he demonstrated the clinical applications of X-rays in the detection of foreign bodies, fractures, and bone disease (mainly tuberculosis), and presented excellent radiographic reproductions. He also demonstrated his fluorescent screen, delighting his audience by revealing to them the bones of their own hands. Quick to appreciate the many applications of X-rays to clinical practice, he demonstrated to the medical profession the value of the new technique in his papers on ‘X-ray photography applied to anatomical investigation’ to the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 11 June 1897, and ‘Some recent X-ray work’ (RAMI Trans., xvii (1899), 520–29), which established him as a leading authority on radiology in the English-speaking world and led to his election as a member of the Röntgen Society at its first AGM in London (1898).
From early 1896 he applied X-rays to dentistry, and presented jointly with G. J. Goldie a remarkable paper on ‘The scope of X-rays in dental pathology’ (RAMI Trans., xix (1901), 284–313). In ‘On the use of X-rays in medical diagnosis’ (Dublin Jn. Med. Sc., cxiii (May 1902), 415–25), he stated that he had X-rayed over 1,900 patients and demonstrated its value in the diagnoses of diseases including those of the lung, lymph nodes, and aorta. He held voluntary classes for his colleagues, induced TCD to acquire X-ray apparatus, and was appointed demonstrator in Röntgen photography at TCD and surgeon radiographer at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin. As early as 1897 he was aware that X-rays could cause dermatitis through repeated or protracted use, but he failed to appreciate the necessity of radiation protection, and, having exposed his hands too freely, he was forced to relinquish his work. He was singularly important in establishing radiology as a clinical speciality, and when the Radiological Society of Ireland was founded (1932), his contribution was recognised in his election as first president and his reelection till 1951.
During the first world war he held the rank of major in the RAMC and worked at the militaryhospital, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. A leading orthopaedic surgeon, he was closely associated with the Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital of Ireland, Dublin, where he was surgeon for many years till 1950, and subsequently consulting surgeon. Elected fellow of the British Orthopaedic Association and hon. member of the International Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons, in TCD he was created hon. professor of orthopaedic surgery (1923) and granted the degree of M.Ch. (1936).
Affectionately known as ‘Baldy’, he was a keen sportsman and a musician with a powerful tenor voice. He organised musical programmes for professional and college functions, including TCD's tercentenary celebrations. He died 12 October 1951 at his home, 3 Roebuck Crescent, Clonskea, Dublin. A portrait (1948) by Seán O'Sullivan (qv) and a memorial plaque (1951) were placed in Dr Steevens’ Hospital. Haughton married (4 August 1909) Jane Eliza, daughter of John Halahan, dean of Ross (d. 1920), and great-granddaughter of John Halahan (1753–1813), a founder of the RCSI; they had a daughter, Isabel (b. 1910) who married a consultant psychiatrist, J. F. Wilde, and settled in England, and a son, Capt. Samuel Hewitt (b. 1913), a surgeon in the Royal Australian Navy.