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Biographical entry Johnson, Raymond (1863 - 1944)

OBE 1919; MRCS 31 July 1885; FRCS 13 December 1888; MB BS London 1886.

15 September 1863
26 October 1944
General surgeon


Born in London 15 September 1863, the eldest child of Raymond Johnson and his wife Barbara Wells. He was educated at Argyll College, Holland Park and at University College, London, where he won an entrance exhibition in 1881. He took his clinical training at University College Hospital and during the five years of his course he won fourteen scholarships, exhibitions and medals. At the MB examination he took honours in medicine, won the gold medal in obstetric medicine, and was awarded the University scholarship in forensic medicine, after being bracketed equal with J W Washbourne of Guy's; in 1886 he was Atkinson Morley surgical scholar. He served as house physician to Sydney Ringer, obstetric assistant to Graily Hewitt, and house surgeon to Marcus Beck, and then became private assistant to Sir Rickman Godlee. In 1888 he became assistant demonstrator of anatomy to Professor G D Thane at University College. After serving as surgical registrar, Johnson was elected assistant surgeon to the Hospital in 1893, surgeon in 1900, and consulting surgeon on his retirement in 1923. He was not committed to retiring under age limit, but felt morally bound to make room for younger colleagues on reaching his sixtieth birthday, as they were bound by the age-limit under a new rule. In 1899 he succeeded Bilton Pollard in the direction of the ear, nose, and throat department, before the appointment of H Tilley as a specialist to this post. From 1890 to 1901 Johnson was surgeon to outpatients at the Victoria Hospital for Children, and subsequently to in-patients. He was consulting surgeon to the Cheyne Hospital, Chelsea.

During the South African war Johnson volunteered for service at the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital of the South African Field Force, where among his colleagues were Alfred Fripp, Cuthbert Wallace, and Herbert Shirley (Scharlieb). Johnson was awarded the Queen's medal. In the first world war he was commissioned a temporary surgeon rear-admiral in 1914 and posted to Plymouth, but volunteered for active service in the Gallipoli campaign 1915. Disappointed of this, he resigned his naval commission and served as a captain in the RAMC at the 3rd London General Hospital. He was created OBE for his services.

Johnson made a reputation for himself as a skilful surgeon, a lucid teacher, and a scrupulously fair examiner. He set the highest standard for himself, but was always ready to take the blame for any error or omission by his assistants. He examined in surgery for the universities of London, Cambridge, Birmingham, and Leeds, and served on the Court of Examiners of the Royal College from 1917 to 1926. He was already a Councillor of the College, serving 1916-24; and was a surgical examiner for the LDS 1920. In 1893-94 he had been a Hunterian professor, and in 1924 gave the Bradshaw lecture on "Simple and malignant tumours of the breast". Johnson was not a prolific writer, but his study of Tumours contributed jointly with T W P Lawrence to Choyce's System of surgery, 1911, became a standard authority. He contributed an excellent account of his master Sir Rickman Godlee to the University College Hospital Magazine, 1923, 8, 108, which incidentally contains a good photograph of himself.

Johnson devoted himself wholly to his profession, and had served as president of the Association of Surgeons, but on retirement he settled completely in the country, first at Burdenshot Gate, near Chobham, and later at Long Ridge, Worplesdon, near Guildford, both in Surrey. He had had a large and successful private practice at 11 Wimpole Street, W1. Johnson married in 1893 Mary Helen King, who survived him with two daughters. He died in a nursing home on 26 October 1944, aged 81, and was buried at Worplesdon. Johnson was an old-fashioned gentleman, bearded and bespectacled, of the utmost integrity and simplicity. Though a first-class surgeon, he would never allow himself to accept credit or rewards which he thought disproportionate to his achievement. But "Johnnie" was the last to condemn the shortcomings of his friends, by whom he was deeply loved.

Some clinical aspects of carcinoma of the breast, Bradshaw lecture, RCS 1924. Brit J Surg 1925, 12, 630-662.
Tumours, in System of surgery, edited by C C Choyce. London, 1911.
Erichsen's Science and art of surgery, 10th edition, by Raymond Johnson, in succession to Marcus Beck.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 7 November 1944, p 6g; Brit med J 1944, 2, 676, eulogy by A J Gardham, with portrait; Lancet, 1944, 2, 644, with eulogy by the same; Univ Coll Hosp Mag 1944, 29, 105, eulogy by G B; further information from Mrs Raymond Johnson].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England