Life in England
Surprisingly little is known about William Worrall Mayo's early years growing up in England. He was born in the English village of Salford, near Manchester, on May 31, 1819, the son of James and Anne Mayo. James Mayo worked as a carpenter, a highly skilled artisan who finished wood products such as paneling and doors in his own shop. William was told as a child that his family ancestry dated to the early 16th century, when a group of Flemish Protestants migrated from the Low Countries to escape persecution. In England, the name Mayo, which ranged in spelling from Mayo to Mayhlwe, became esteemed and was associated with several Mayos who were respected physicians.
James Mayo passed away when William was only 7 years old. His mother moved her family of six children to another house in Salford. In 1826, 90,000 of the country's weavers and spinners were out of work. This led to rioting and the destruction of factories. Many public meetings on the need for reform were held in Manchester. Perhaps during these years of exposure to political and social uprising, a seed of social conscience was planted in William.
Anne Mayo managed to give William and his brother a good education even though most children in England did not have that opportunity. William studied Latin and Greek with a French tutor and had private lessons with the famous scientist John Dalton, best known for developing the Atomic Theory. Under Dalton's teaching, William began his education in medicine and science. He continued his studies, but did not complete the training necessary to secure a license to practice.
In 1846, at age 27, he boarded a ship for America.