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Biographical entry Williamson-Noble, Frederick Arnold (1889 - 1969)

MRCS 1914; FRCS 1923; MB, BCh Cambridge 1914; LRCP 1914.

26 July 1889
27 February 1969
Ophthalmic surgeon


Frederick Arnold Williamson-Noble was born on 26 July, 1889, the son of the late Mr G E Williamson of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was educated at Oundle School, Queen's College, Cambridge and at St Mary's Hospital Medical School. He qualified in 1914 and joined the Royal Navy, in which he served throughout the first world war, being present at the Battle of Jutland. At the end of that war he returned to St Mary's and became house surgeon to Warren Low. He passed the Final FRCS examination in 1923 and subsequently passed the additional ophthalmic examination which entitled him to be FRCS with ophthalmology.

He had decided to specialise in ophthalmology and in 1924 he was appointed supernumary ophthalmic surgeon at St Mary's Hospital, London. He was subsequently appointed surgeon to the Central London Ophthalmic Hospital, and ophthalmic surgeon to the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, and ophthalmic surgeon to the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital. In 1943 he was appointed civilian consultant in ophthalmology to the Royal Navy, an appointment which gave him the greatest possible pleasure. He paid regular visits to the Royal Navy Hospitals, these visits necessarily taking place at weekends. He played a great part in the introduction of special study leave courses for naval ophthalmologists which has led to the present situation whereby they can reach the same standard as their civilian colleagues, and can achieve full consultant status. He was Master of the Oxford Ophthalmic Congress from 1947 to 1949. He served also as Vice-President of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom and was the first treasurer of the Faculty of Ophthalmologists. He was a member of the Midland Ophthalmological Society and a regular attender at its meetings. He was also a member of the Ophthalmic Club and he rarely missed a meeting. He was for some years a member of the Orthoptic Board and he served for many years as a member of the Editorial Board of the British journal of ophthalmology on which he was meticulous in the attention he gave to his editorial duties.

He was always careful and thorough in his examination of patients, and this conscientious approach characterised his work until he had to give it up a few weeks before he died. He had an original mind and he was always most interested in all the new developments in ophthalmology. He invented a number of instruments and he used a number of original methods in his surgical operations. He read many papers at the ophthalmic meetings and he contributed articles to many of the ophthalmic journals. He was joint author with the late Humphrey Neame of A handbook of ophthalmology which was very popular with many generations of medical students.

Williamson-Noble was a good teacher of undergraduates and he was inspiring in his dealings with his housemen and his registrars. His great love was clinical ophthalmology. He sat on the various committees but one always had the feeling that he grudged the time which might have been spent with patients. He used to say that the democratic committee method was time wasting and that most of the decisions could be made more quickly and just as satisfactorily by a chairman with dictatorial powers.

He was a keen oarsman who rowed in the Queen's first May boat at Cambridge, and he was for many years the President of the St Mary's Hospital Boat Club to which he was a very generous benefactor. He was, in his younger days, a keen skier and a regular winter visitor to Davos. He played golf, tennis and squash. He had the unique experience in 1945 of being asked to examine a well-known racehorse called Dante, which had uveitis. The treatment was successful and Dante later won the Derby.

He married in 1917 the Hon. Sheila Black Noble, daughter to the First Baron of Kirkley and there were two sons. The elder son was killed as the result of a flying accident near the end of the second world war. His wife and the younger son survived him. He died at his home on 27 February 1969.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1969, 1, 786;Lancet 1969, 1, 582].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England