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Biographical entry Saint, Charles Frederick Morris (1886 - 1973)

CBE 1919; MRCS and FRCS 1913; MB BS Durham 1908; MD MS 1912; Hon FRACS 1935; Hon FCSSA 1967.

14 August 1886
Bedlington, Northumberland
15 February 1973
General surgeon


Born on 14 August 1886 at Bedlington, Northumberland, third child and eldest son of James Saint, schoolmaster, and Mary Anne Downie Morris, daughter of Thomas Common Morris, a farmer and butcher. Charles Saint's uncle, his brother and several relations of a third generation entered the medical profession. He was educated at King Edward VI's Grammar School, Morpeth and at the Durham University College of Medicine, Newcastle-upon- Tyne, where he won many prizes and seven scholarships, and took first class honours at the MB and MD examinations. He gained the Fellowship in 1913.

At the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle he was house surgeon to Rutherford Morison, the leading surgeon of that time and place, served in the throat, ear and eye department, and became surgical registrar and acting assistant surgeon; he was also surgeon to the Fleming Memorial Children's Hospital. During 1910-14 and again, after the war, in 1919-20 he was private assistant to Rutherford Morison and to W G Richardson.

In the first world war he was a surgical specialist, Major RAMC, for four years in France, was twice mentioned in despatches, won the French Medaille d'Honneur en Or in 1916, and was created CBE (Military) in 1919.

After his brief return to Newcastle, Saint went to South Africa in 1920 as Professor of Surgery in the University of Cape Town. There he worked and practised with great success for twenty-six years, and was made Emeritus Professor on his retirement at the age of sixty in 1946. He was an excellent practical surgeon and a most inspiring teacher, becoming a life-long friend to his former pupils, 'my boys' to whom he was always 'Charlie'. He exerted wise influence on the teaching of surgery in South Africa, basing it on clinical experience rather than reliance on technical equipment. He was recognised as 'the grand old Man' of South African surgery, and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the College of Surgeons of South Africa in 1967.

On retirement he returned to Europe but often revisited South Africa, where he was always welcomed by his former colleagues and old pupils. In his last years he settled in the Channel Isle of Sark, where he died on 15 February 1973 aged eighty-six, survived by his wife, Hilda Annie Armstrong, whom he had married at the opening of the first world war, on 1 September 1914, but without children.

Saint received many professional honours: he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1935, of the Greek Surgical Society in 1942 and of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1953. He was a Hunterian Professor in 1950.

Saint played association football for his School and College and in the Army during the first world war until he damaged his right knee; thereafter he enjoyed rough shooting and big-game hunting. Late in life he became interested in philosophy.

An Introduction to Surgery, by Rutherford Morison: 2nd edition by CFMS 1925; 3rd edition 1937; 4th edition 1948.
An Introduction to Clinical Surgery, 1945; 2nd edition jointly with J H Louw 1949. Surgical Note-taking, 1940; 4th edition 1947; 4th edition, with J. H. Louw 1960.
He also had a collection of his own aphorisms printed for his students.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Daily Telegraph, 17 February 1973, without memoir; S Afr med J 1973, 47, 286, appreciations by J K Bremer and C A R Schulemburg].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England