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Biographical entry West, Charles Ernest (1873 - 1951)

MRCS 8 November 1900; FRCS 12 June 1902; LRCP 1900; BA Oxford 1895; BM 1900.

23 March 1873
1 January 1951
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
ENT surgeon


Born on 23 March 1873, the second son of Charles Percy West of Ambleside, a cotton broker, and Catherine Camidge, his wife. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby, and at Balliol College, Oxford, which he entered with a classical scholarship in 1891. He took a first class in classical moderations in 1893, and a second class in the final school of natural science in 1895, having learnt chemistry from Sir John Conroy, physiology from Sir John Burdon-Sanderson, and anatomy from Arthur Thomson. He entered St Bartholomew's Hospital with an open scholarship in 1897, and won the Brackenbury surgical scholarship and the Sir George Burrows prize in the year that he qualified, 1900. After serving as house surgeon to Alfred Willett and junior demonstrator of anatomy under Holburt Waring, he was appointed in 1902 first assistant in the aural department under A E Cumberbatch whom he succeeded as aural surgeon in 1907. In this early period he did valuable bacteriological research with Sir Frederick Andrews and Dr Thomas (now Lord) Horder. In his surgical work he was inspired by the advances recently made by William Macewen at Glasgow and Charles Ballance at St Thomas's. West was himself a great teacher and a brilliant operator, and contributed much to the veritable renaissance which took place in the practice of his hospital about this time. With Sydney R Scott he wrote in 1909 an excellent textbook on The Operations of Aural Surgery. West took an active part in the otological section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and had a large and successful private practice. During the war of 1914-18 he served in the RAMC under D'Arcy Power, at Camberwell Military Hospital.

West was endowed with brilliant technical dexterity, an original intellect, and great strength both physical and moral. He impressed his personality deeply on all his pupils, whose battles he was ever ready to fight and whose errors he was always prepared to shoulder. West retired in 1921 at the age of 48, and was elected consulting aural surgeon and a governor of St Bartholomew's. He settled at Flushing, near Falmouth in Cornwall, and enjoyed himself sailing alone off that dangerous coast in a 6-ton cutter. Unfortunately he seriously injured one of his Achilles tendons, when jumping in a game of badminton, and had to take to a motor-yacht. Later he moved to Sturminster, Dorset, where during the war of 1939-45 he served as medical officer of the 4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Home Guard. In 1945 he moved again to Broadpark, Moor Lane, Budleigh Salterton, Devon, where he died on 1 January 1951, aged 77. West was twice married: (1) in 1908 to Esther McCrossan, who died in 1935; (2) in 1935 to Kathleen Thomas, who survived him. There were no children of either marriage. He was a man of great versatility. His love of yachting has been mentioned, he was also a pioneer of motoring. He was a connoisseur of wines and carpets, and a good musician, playing the harp. He was a brilliant and witty conversationalist and an amusing letter writer, though reserved in general company. He was completely modest and unselfseeking. His work on the surgery of the labyrinth, on meningitis, brain abscess, sinus thrombosis, and the treatment of malignant disease of the ear was fundamental, but he sought no fame by it.

The operative surgery of labyrinthitis, with S R Scott. Proc Roy Soc Med 1907, 1, Otology, p 37-83.
The operations of aural surgery, with S R Scott. London, Lewis, 1909.
Diseases of the ear, in W J Waisham's Surgery, 10th edition by Spencer and Gask, 1910, p 692.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 3 January 1951, p lb and 22 January, p 8e; Brit med J 1951, 1, 141, by S R Scott, FRCS, with appreciation by E B B; Lancet, 1951, 1, 119, by S R Scott, with portrait, p 177 correction, and p 242 appreciation by E B B as in Brit med J; information from Mrs West].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England