Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Stell, Philip Michael (1934 - 2004)

MBE 2004; MRCS and FRCS 1966; MB ChB Edinburgh 1958; ChM Liverpool 1976; MA York; FRCS Edinburgh 1962.

14 August 1934
Dewsbury, Yorkshire, UK
20 May 2004


Philip Stell had an outstanding career as a reconstructive surgeon, dealing with head and neck cancers, and went on to a successful second career in mediaeval history. He was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, on 14 August 1934, the son of Frank Law Stell, a tailor’s manager, and Ada née Davies. He was educated at Archbishop Holgate Grammar School, York, and Edinburgh University. After junior posts in Edinburgh and Liverpool, he won a fellowship to Washington University, St Louis, in 1956.

He returned to Liverpool as a senior lecturer. In 1976 he wrote his masters thesis on skin grafting techniques, and in 1979 he became a professor. He dealt with all aspects of head and neck malignancies, and developed exceptional expertise in reconstruction, keeping detailed outcomes of his operations using a computerised database. He published some 346 articles in scientific journals, edited 12 books and contributed to a further 39. In 1975 he founded the journal Clinical Otolaryngology and set up the Otorhinolaryngological Research Society in 1978 (he was President from 1983 to 1986). He was President of the laryngological section of the Royal Society of Medicine, the Association of Head and Neck Oncologists of Great Britain and the Liverpool Medical Institution.

He was Hunterian Professor of our College in 1976 and a regional adviser in ENT for the Mersey region. He was the recipient of numerous awards and medals, including the Yearsley gold medal, the Semon prize of the Royal Society of Medicine, the Harrison and the George Davey Howells prizes of the University of London, the Sir William Wilde gold medal of the Irish Otorhinolaryngolical Society in 1988, the Walter Jobson Horne prize of the British Medical Society in 1989, the gold medal of the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center and the Institute of Oncology, 1989, and the gold medal of the German ENT Society in 1991.

An associate member of the Institute of Linguists, he was fluent in Dutch, German, French and Spanish, and made it his practise to deliver overseas lectures in the local language, though his size (he was 6 feet 7 inches) made air travel uncomfortable. He translated 11 foreign language textbooks into English.

In 1992, when he was only 57, he took early retirement due to ill health. He moved to York, the city he had grown up in, and began a second career in mediaeval history. He enrolled for an MA at York University, writing a thesis on medical care in late mediaeval York. He taught a speech recognition computer programme to recognise Latin, and set up unique databases for mediaeval Yorkshire wills and other documents, some going back to the 13th century, more than 300 years before parish registers began. For his contribution to history he was made a fellow of both the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society.

He married Shirley Kathleen Mills in 1959, by whom he had four sons and a daughter. Shirley predeceased him in April 2004. He died on 29 May 2004.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2004 329 860, with portrait; The Times 30 June 2004, with portrait.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England