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Biographical entry Foxen, Eric Harry Miles (1919 - 2012)

MRCS 1942; FRCS 1948; DLO 1944; LRCP 1942.

24 February 1919
Ilford, Essex
5 July 2012
ENT surgeon


Miles Foxen was a highly respected ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Westminster Hospital, London, known to every student, general practitioner and young aspirant to the speciality through his Lecture notes on diseases of the ear, nose and throat (Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications), first published in 1961, which under his authorship ran to four editions. Subsequent editions are still being published. 'Haven't you read your Miles Foxen?' was even a line in a children's television drama in the 1980s!

He was born on 24 February 1919 in Ilford. His father Harry (Harry Thomas Foxen), an ex-RAF captain, was a surveyor and estate agent, and his mother (Eleanor Bessie née Mapley) was an elocution and drama teacher who worked with her actress sister Jane. Miles was predeceased by an older sibling and remained an only child, which he claimed explained his lifelong passion for pursuing hobbies. Educated at Watford Grammar School, Miles was determined to become a doctor but at that time his school did not teach the full range of science subjects necessary for entry to medicine. His physics master, who remained a friend all his life, obtained the syllabus and taught Miles biology, always just one step ahead of his pupil.

Miles took his second MB at King's College London and started his clinical studies at Westminster Hospital Medical School, just five months before the outbreak of the Second World War. He was on a rota for fire-duty, stationed on the roof of the newly built seven storey-high Westminster Hospital. He qualified with the conjoint in January 1942, having done pre-qualification house jobs at Salisbury General Infirmary. From February to July 1942 he was a house surgeon to the ear, nose and throat, ophthalmic, irradiation and dental departments at Westminster Hospital.

In September 1942 he joined the RAMC and initially became regimental medical officer in the glider pilot regiment, before training in otology in Edinburgh. This resulted in his grading as an otologist in March 1944. It was in Edinburgh that he met his first wife, Florence Elizabeth Macdonald. Theirs was a whirlwind six-week romance and they married in August 1944. Miles was posted immediately to India until he was demobilised in February 1947. He returned to Westminster Hospital, firstly as a registrar in ENT (from 1947 to 1949) and then as a consultant ENT surgeon.

Miles was known for his dry wit, delivered with a rather doleful voice. He was a meticulous surgeon, an enthusiastic teacher and a sympathetic clinician. Not everyone at the hospital would have known of his love of the ridiculous and slapstick. He could be reduced to uncontrollable laughter by Dad's Army, Tony Hancock and Beyond our Ken. One person who did know this and who shared much of his life was Cyril Scurr, his anaesthetist at Westminster; ironically they both died within a day of each other.

Miles was simultaneously consultant aurist and laryngologist at Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital and the Chelsea Hospital for Women, and for a while was on the staff of the Enfield War Memorial Hospital and the French Hospital, London. Associated with this latter appointment was his corresponding membership of the Société Française d'Oto-Rhino-Laryngologie. He was a member of the Court of Examiners of our College, one of the earliest members of the British Association of Otolaryngologists, and a vice president of the section of laryngology of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Divorced in the early 1970s, Miles married Wendy Hylda Kaye in August 1975. On his retirement in 1979 they moved to Wiltshire and thus began a very industrious and happy period of his life. He became a very competent painter in oils and watercolour, an astronomer, linguist, mathematician, fisherman and avid reader. He was also a determined and passionate instrumentalist, whether on the piano, cello, saxophone or bongos. His ever decreasing hearing did not seem to affect this passion.

Miles had three children by his first wife - Gillian, who became a geriatrician, Jocelyn, a radiologist, and Richard, who is a horticulturalist. He was also blessed with five grandchildren and two great grand-daughters.

His second wife Wendy died in 2004, but Miles retained his independent living until his sudden death, on 5 July 2012, at the age of 93, attributed to an arrhythmia as a consequence of cardiac failure following a myocardial infarction in 2008. He donated his body for medical research.

Neil Weir
Jocelyn Hollway

The Royal College of Surgeons of England