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Biographical entry Simpson-Smith, Alexander (1900 - 1942)

MRCS 30 July 1925; FRCS 13 June 1929; BA Cambridge 1922; MA MB BCh 1926; MCh 1930.

2 June 1900
General surgeon


Born 2 June 1900; his parents lived in 1919 at Kirkside, Honley, Huddersfield. He was educated at St Cuthbert's School, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, of which he became captain, at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he was a mathematical scholar, and at Guy's Hospital. He qualified in 1925 and, after taking the higher surgical qualifications, he was elected to a Richardson research scholarship in 1930, which enabled him to go to the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. At Guy's he had served as junior demonstrator of anatomy and staff anaesthetist, and on coming home from America was appointed resident surgical officer and radium registrar, and proved himself a brilliant operator. He was then appointed resident assistant surgeon and surgeon to out-patients at the West London Hospital, and surgeon in 1934 to the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. He was also consulting surgeon to the Lord Mayor Treloar Cripples Hospital, Alton, the mental hospitals at Napsbury and Shenley, the Surrey Dispensary, and the Mignot Hospital, Alderney, Channel Isles. Simpson-Smith was a member of the British Medical Association, and served as honorary secretary of the Medical Society of London and of the clinical section at the Royal Society of Medicine, and was a council-member of the Harveian Society. Simpson-Smith was awarded a research fellowship by the Association of Surgeons in 1934, and worked till 1939 at the Royal College of Surgeons and its Buckston Browne Farm on the surgical treatment of gastric ulcer in collaboration with Laurence O'Shaughnessy, and on other problems.

On the outbreak of war in September 1939 Simpson-Smith was commissioned a major in the RAMC, and was posted to a military hospital near London. After the fall of France in 1940 he was posted to the Middle East. He served first at a base hospital at Cairo and later was promoted lieutenant-colonel and stationed at Tobruk. He was mentioned in despatches, and his excellent work was praised by an Italian surgeon, Giorgio Colognato of Rome, who had charge of many British prisoners of war after the surrender of Tobruk. Simpson-Smith had made a special study of the treatment of war burns. He was captured at Tobruk on 20 June 1942 and escaped early in July, after dealing with all casualties.

He was last seen in a motor-ambulance heading for the oasis of Siwa. He was reported to be wearing a German officer's shirt, and appears to have been shot. He was officially reported missing, but his grave was subsequently found at Halfaya-Sollum. He was 42 years old. Simpson-Smith married in 1939 Marguerite Alice, daughter of T B F Davis of Jersey and Durban, South Africa, who survived him. Simpson-Smith was endowed with ability, gaiety of spirit, and personal magnetism. His qualities and powers seemed to mark him for a great professional and scientific career. While a student he underwent operations on his right hand, which had been injured in childhood, so that he might achieve his ambition of practising surgery. The Alex Simpson-Smith lectureship was founded in his memory at the West London hospital.

Spontaneous fractures of clavicle and humerus. Trans Med Soc Lond 1930, 53, 73. Cases of malignant disease treated with radium in general surgical wards, with F J Steward. Guy's Hosp Rep 1933, 83, 160.
Treatment of compound fractures of tibia. Brit med J 1933, 2, 1019; of maxillary fractures. Ibid 1934, 2, 632.
Appendicitis in children. Practitioner, 1935, 134, 518.
Traumatic rupture of the urethra. Brit J Surg 1936-37, 24, 309.
Sarcoma of the intestine in children. Ibid 1938-39, 26, 429.
New instruments:
Bone drills. Lancet, 1932, 2, 20.
Bone clamp. Ind med Gaz 1932, 67, 660.
Trephine. Lancet, 1933, 1, 1350.
Mirror for viewing operations. Lancet, 1936, 2, 382.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 26 January 1946, p 6f; Lancet, 1946, 1, 74, with portrait, and eulogies by H L E and G B W W; Brit med J 1946, 1, 70; Med Press, 1946, 215, 147; information from Dr J K S St Joseph, tutor of Selwyn College, Cambridge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England