William Worrall Mayo was born in Salford, near Manchester, England, on May 31. Little is known about his family background, although there are accounts of physicians and scientists among his ancestors.
His father James was a successful woodworker or “joiner” who installed wooden fixtures such as doors, windows, and paneling into residential and commercial buildings—providing his family with a secure, though not luxurious, livelihood in that booming community. James married Anne Bonsall Mayo, whose family included prosperous farmers and factory owners. Descended from Protestants who had been persecuted in France, Anne may have helped inspire her son’s sense of tolerance.
The girl who would become Queen Victoria was born one week before William Worrall Mayo. A statement attributed to the young Victoria—“I will be good”—is evocative of W. W. Mayo’s philosophy of service: " . . . to do all the good I could to my fellow man, and as little harm as possible." William Worrall Mayo was a citizen of the United States by the time Queen Victoria said, “We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist,” but he demonstrated the same steely qualities in the challenges he faced.
William Worrall Mayo traveled far to make his name, but he is remembered in his home community. In 2009, marking the 190th anniversary of his birth, the Salford Royal NHS Trust, one of Britain’s premier medical facilities, opened a facility named in his honor. The Mayo Building provides advanced services for medical education and research—a fitting recognition for the first Dr. Mayo, whose international outlook and dedication to excellence helped shape Mayo Clinic.
William Worrall Mayo’s grandson Dr. Charles W. (Chuck) Mayo—also a highly respected physician—wrote:
“ . . . the up-to-date and exacting Mayo Clinic of today is a reflection of my grandfather’s personal style as a doctor. He was a perfectionist who was readily infuriated by sloppy or second-rate work and was always delighted at any opportunity to improve medicine.”