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Biographical entry Patterson, Norman (1877 - 1950)

MRCS and FRCS 14 December 1905; MB ChB Edinburgh 1900.

27 June 1877
16 January 1950
Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire
ENT surgeon


Born on 27 June 1877, third child and second son of the Rev James Patterson, minister of Ancrum, Roxburghshire, and Susan Noble, his wife. He was educated at Melville College, Edinburgh, and qualified from Edinburgh University in 1900, after winning the Grierson bursary in the basic sciences and the anatomy medal. Coming to London he worked at King's College Hospital and as house surgeon at the Children's Hospital, Paddington Green, and was then appointed assistant demonstrator of anatomy at the London Hospital under Arthur Keith, FRCS. He took the Fellowship in 1905, though not previously a Member of the College.

Patterson had by now determined to specialize as an ear, nose, and throat surgeon, and became registrar (1912) in that department at the London. He was elected an assistant surgeon to the Hospital in 1916, was appointed surgeon in 1923, and became consulting surgeon in December 1942. He was also surgeon to the Throat Hospital, Golden Square, and to the Florence Nightingale Hospital, and consulting surgeon to the Royal School for Deaf and Dumb Children at Margate.

Patterson never really cared for city life and as soon as retirement became possible restricted his work within range of his house at Ashridge on the Hertford-Buckingham border. He was County laryngologist and aurist for Buckinghamshire, and consulting aural surgeon to the Royal Bucks Hospital, Aylesbury and to the St Albans and Mid-Herts Hospital. More and more he devoted himself to gardening and bee-keeping, and became expert in the design and construction of beehives. In earlier years he had lived at Reigate, Surrey and successfully cultivated primulas in his bog-garden.

During his active surgical life Patterson was one of the most prominent and best liked in his specialty. He wrote comparatively little, but his summaries of the surgery of the nose, throat, and ear in Walton's Textbook and Choyce's System were masterly. He was a pioneer in the use of the diathermy knife, and his radical external operation for chronic sinusitis with polypi fully proved its worth; he also designed an operation for excision of cancer of the cheek.

Patterson married on 17 December 1908 Winifred Dorothea Crocker, who survived him with a daughter. Their son, Ian Norman Patterson, MC, was killed in December 1944 in a flying accident while on active service as a major, Army Air Corps, Central Mediterranean Forces, in the war of 1939-45. Patterson died suddenly on 16 January 1950 at Nobs Crook, Ashridge Park, Herts, aged 72.

He was a man of great intellectual and manual ability, and in spite of his retiring nature and devotion to his non-surgical interests he made notable achievement in his specialty. He was president of the otological section of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1931 and of the laryngological section in 1946, and was a Fellow of the American Laryngological Society. He showed outstanding kindness to all with whom he came in contact. He was a keen trout-fisherman, and a good amateur musician, and exhibited oil paintings at the Medical Art Society.

Note on a new method of treating carcinoma of the cheek. Lancet, 1927, 2, 703. Diseases of the nose and pharynx; of the larynx, air passages and neck; and of the ear. Walton's Textbook of surgical diseases, 1928, 1, 548-587.
The pharynx, naso-pharynx, and larynx. Choyce's System of surgery, 3rd edition, 1932, 3, 163-217.
The use of the diathermy knife in malignant disease of the mouth, nose, and pharynx. Lancet, 1934, 2, 633; 694.
Carcinoma of the cheek, an original method of treatment, with reports on 10 cases. Brit J Surg. 1937-38, 25, 330.
Chronic sinusitis with polypi; a radical external operation. Lancet, 1944, 1, 558.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 20 January 1950, p 7e; Lancet, 1950, 1, 187, by Sir Arthur Keith and others, with portrait; Brit med J 1950, 1, 254, by E R G Passe, FRCS, and 2, 119, will; information from Mrs Patterson].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England