Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Henderson, William Robert (1904 - 1975)

OBE 1945; MRCS and FRCS 1934; MB ChB Edinburgh 1926.

3 February 1904
30 November 1975


William Robert Henderson was born on 3 February 1904. He graduated in medicine at Edinburgh in 1926. In 1938 he was appointed first specialist neurosurgeon at Leeds but was only there for a year before he was selected as neurosurgeon-in-charge of the No 1 Army mobile neurosurgical unit based at Oxford. The unit worked, largely in general surgery, during the retreat to Dunkirk and was captured intact. His special qualities of determination, calm, surgical skill, and patience were of particular value at such a time and he became famous as one of the surgical team at the POW Hospital at Obermassfeld. During this period he gained a vast experience of peripheral nerve injuries and the effects of amputation and much of the carefully collected data later appeared in print. He was then transferred to Colditz. In 1945 he was appointed OBE for his distinguished services while a prisoner of war.

After a few months attached to the military hospital for head injuries at Oxford, he returned to Leeds in 1946 and gradually expanded the neurosurgical service in the region. For 23 years his clinical commonsense and superb operating skills were an inspiration to many generations of trainees. As befitting a pupil of Harvey Cushing he had an abundance of patience at the bedside and in the theatre. He was greatly respected both locally and nationally and was for many years secretary and later President of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons. Among his memorable writings were those on pituitary tumours, basal meningiomas, phantom limbs, trigeminal neuralgia and angiomas.

He died on 30 November 1975 leaving his wife, Mary, and a son and daughter.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1976, 1, 345].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England