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Biographical entry Woolfenden, Herbert Francis (1880 - 1940)

MRCS 12 May 1904; FRCS 10 June 1909; MB BCh Liverpool 1905; MD 1906; LRCP 1904.

5 April 1880
Memphis, Tennessee, USA
10 April 1940
General surgeon and Orthopaedic surgeon


Born on 5 April 1880 at Memphis, Tennessee, USA, the second of the three sons of Robert Woolfenden, cotton merchant, and Sarah Smith, his wife. He was educated at Bickerton House School, Birkdale, and then entered the Liverpool Medical School, where he had a brilliant career as an undergraduate, became senior demonstrator of anatomy in 1908, when A M Paterson was the professor, and was Thelwall Thomas pathology Fellow of the University after taking postgraduate courses in London, Paris, and Berlin. He was house surgeon to F T Paul in 1904, was appointed assistant surgeon to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1911, and surgeon in 1925, holding office until his resignation four days before his death. In this position he was instrumental in establishing an orthopaedic department. He held office in Liverpool University as lecturer on clinical surgery.

Woolfenden was one of the first assistant surgeons at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary to volunteer for active service in the war. He received a commission as temporary major, RAMC, on 9 May 1917 and was promoted acting lieutenant-colonel on 29 May 1918, when he was surgeon specialist to the 11th General Hospital, where he did excellent work during the Somme offensive. Professor Harvey Cushing wrote of his work: "10 pm, June 4th, 1917. No 1 l (General Hospital) Undermanned; often only eight medical officers and these frequently shifted; Campbell and Woolfenden have faced the music for the past few months, having 8,000 patients pass through their hands since the Somme offensive: most of them serious cases, night work, secondary haemorrhages, major infections, and yet they have found time to do some careful work with Carrel-Dakin treatment. No wonder they have broken down and are to leave for Blighty this morning at 3 am." Woolfenden returned to Liverpool after demobilization and worked on trigeminal and glosso-pharyngeal neuralgias, exophthalmic goitre, and gastro-enterology.

He married on 17 September 1919 Beryl Hughes, daughter of Percy Hughes, solicitor, of Birkenhead. She died 25 June 1927, leaving him with two sons and a daughter. He died in Liverpool on 10 April 1940. Woolfenden was a first-class surgeon, a keen diagnostician, and a bold operator. Modest to a degree and of a most retiring disposition, he was extremely diffident about publication and wrote little. He was a great reader and a very good golfer.

Two cases in which the lateral ventricle was opened in the course of operations for the removal of a bullet and indriven bone. Lancet, 1916, 1, 1037.
Gunshot wounds of the knee joint, with J Campbell. Ibid 1917, 2, 185-194.
Right-sided visceroptosis. Liverpool med-chir J 1930, 38, 221.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1940, 1, 857, with portrait; Brit med J 1940, 1, 714; Harvey Cushing From a Surgeon's Journal, Boston, Mass. 1936, p. 113; Sphincter, Liverpool, 1940, 4, 24, with portrait facing p 10; information given by Miss Margaret Woolfenden and Sir Robert Kelly, FRCS].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England