William Watson Cheyne lived and trained during a period of great advances in medical knowledge and surgical techniques. Despite his various contributions to the fields of bacteriology and surgery, little is known about his career or his life apart from his affiliations with Joseph Lister. This article aims to identify Cheyne as a pioneer in the treatment of congenital hydrocephalus and sheds light on the man who existed in Lister's shadow for most of his life. Cheyne's technique for surgical intervention of hydrocephalus was a great turning point and contributes to the current treatment strategy utilized today for hydrocephalus. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.