Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Knight, Michael James (1939 - 2011)

MRCS 1963; FRCS 1967; MB BS Lond 1963; MS 1975; LRCP 1963.

28 August 1939
London, UK
9 October 2011
Biliary surgeon


Michael James Knight was a biliary surgeon at St James' Hospital, Balham, and St George's Hospital. He was born on 29 August 1939 in Canning Town, London, the son of Charles Knight, a builder, and Ellen Elizabeth Knight née Murphy, a cook. He and his brother Richard were the first of the family to go to university, Mike studying medicine at St George's Hospital Medical School, his brother obtaining a PhD in chemistry. On telling their father that they were both doctors, he questioned when they were going to stop 'playing at university' and get a proper job.

During the war years, Knight was evacuated to Somerset, forming a life-long bond with the county and subsequently purchasing a family holiday home there.

He qualified in 1963 and, after his houseman year, worked at the Royal Hampshire Hospital, Winchester, before returning to St George's Hospital as a surgical registrar. It was during this period that he worked for Lord Rodney Smith, who became his mentor and guide during the rest of his professional life. Some of Mike's more colourful behaviour can be attributed to the influence of Smith, including his legendary behaviour in the operating theatre and his affection for hospital managers.

His research took him to America, where he was a fellow to Washington University, St Louis, and, after his return, was appointed as a senior surgical registrar at St George's Hospital. His research culminated in his Hunterian Professorship in 1975.

In 1978 he was appointed as a consultant surgeon to St James' Hospital, Balham, and as an honorary senior lecturer in St George's Hospital Medical School. He established himself as a biliary surgeon and his skill, loyalty and discretion soon led to him heading up a world-renowned tertiary referral centre for bile duct strictures. In 1988 St James' Hospital was amalgamated with St George's. At this stage Mike set up and ran the ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) centre there. His skill with the endoscope further enhanced his reputation as a master biliary surgeon.

Outside the hospital, he was a member of the Court of Examiners for the Royal College of Surgeons of England and a member of the board of trustees to the Pancreatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, of which he was made president in 1987.

He was a very private man and those who knew this side of him were fully aware that he was a devoted family man. He married Phyllis ('Phyl'), a nurse, in 1981. The warmth and generosity of spirit shown by both Mike and Phyl to all those invited into their home were evident. Many evenings ended with Mike playing the piano, music being another of his passions.

The last few years of his professional life were dogged with ill health, but before retiring in 2005 he managed to maintain the ERCP service in St George's Hospital, for which he had become famous and continue his ongoing campaign with hospital managers.

He was survived by his wife Phyl and his children William and Ellie, who, to his immense pride, have followed him into medicine.

Donal Shanahan

The Royal College of Surgeons of England