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Biographical entry Adams, William Stirk (1896 - 1978)

MRCS 1919; FRCS 1924; MB ChB Birmingham 1921; LRCP 1919.

31 May 1896
Acocks Green, Worcestershire
1 February 1978
ENT surgeon


William Stirk Adams was born at Acocks Green, Worcestershire, on 31 May 1896 and educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham. His father was a schoolmaster. He won an entrance scholarship to Birmingham University in 1915. He served as a Surgeon Probationer RNVR in 1916 to 1917; qualified MRCS LRCP in 1919 and served as Surgeon Lieutenant RN from 1919 to 1921. He took the MB ChB in 1921 and after house posts and resident surgical officer at the General Hospital, Birmingham, he was appointed assistant surgeon to the throat and ear department at that hospital in 1926. He was appointed honorary aural surgeon to the Children's Hospital, Birmingham, in 1931. He travelled extensively and studied at leading continental otolaryngological clinics. With the formation of the United Birmingham Hospitals he became honorary surgeon to the throat and ear department and continued to serve until his retirement in 1961.

During the second world war, in the absence of junior colleagues in the Services, he carried an enormous clinical burden, holding honorary appointments at Ellen Badger Hospital, Shipston-on-Stour, the Royal Cripples' Hospital, Birmingham, the City of Birmingham Mental Hospitals, Sutton Coldfield Cottage Hospital and Tamworth General Hospital. He was Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1944. He was a member of the Medical Research Council Committee on the Prevention of Deafness from 1944 to 1947 and carried out extensive and important research work on tubotympanic deafness in children. He wrote regularly on his specialty.

Stirk Adams taught his students with a thoroughness and conscientiousness that earned their admiration and respect so that his opinion was greatly sought after by general practitioners and colleagues. He had the reputation of being a hard taskmaster and to his juniors it was immediately apparent that in his clinical work he was a perfectionist. He would tolerate nothing slipshod or second rate. His enthusiasm for postgraduate education led to the foundation in 1947 of the Midland Institute of Otology, of which he was the first President, and to the formation of the Nursing Association of that Institute. This greatly enhanced the recruitment of nurses to the specialty of otolaryngological nursing.

A bachelor, behind a somewhat austere exterior he was a sensitive and shy man with deep religious convictions who fought strenuously for those things in which he believed. He enjoyed his leisure to the full being a keen sailor in his younger days and a knowledgeable gardener and keeper of bees.

He died on 1 February 1978 at the age of 81.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1978, 1, 655].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England