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Biographical entry Morson, Albert Clifford (1881 - 1975)

OBE; MRCS 1906; FRCS 1912; LRCP 1906.

5 January 1975


Albert Clifford Morson was born in 1881 and educated at Haileybury College, subsequently going to Paris to study. He received his medical training at the Middlesex Hospital, London, qualifying in 1906, and becoming FRCS in 1912. His student career was distinguished both academically and in athletics, for not only was he awarded the Lyall Gold Medal for practical surgery, but he also became captain of the hospital's rugby football team. After qualifying he held various resident appointments both at the Middlesex Hospital and St Peter's Hospital before becoming registrar under Sir John Bland-Sutton in the cancer laboratories at the Middlesex in 1912. It was during this period that he developed his interest in surgical pathology, particularly of the genito-urinary system, which was destined to prove such an asset in his subsequent career as a urologist.

In 1903 he had become an original member of the RNVR (London Division), and on the outbreak of war in 1914 he received a temporary commission as surgeon in the Navy. He served throughout the Gallipoli campaign, and was appointed OBE. Following his return at the end of the war he was appointed consultant surgeon to St Peter's Hospital in 1919, a post which he held with distinction until 1946. During this period he was associated with such illustrious colleagues as Sir Peter Freyer and Sir John Thomson-Walker and others who were dedicated to the development of urology as a speciality - an ideal for which he always vigorously strived. Indeed, in 1946, it was largely due to his endeavours that a linkage was proposed between St Peter's and St Paul's Hospitals with a view to establishing a combined postgraduate urological training centre pending the introduction of the National Health Service. After further discussions with Sir Francis Fraser, then director of the British Postgraduate Medical Federation, his foresight was rewarded by the establishment of the Institute of Urology (University of London), with formal recognition of the associated hospitals, as a self-governing postgraduate urological centre under the Ministry of Health.

During an active professional life Clifford Morson also held honorary consultant appointments to the Whittington and Hampstead General Hospitals as well as becoming consultant to the LCC and Whipps Cross Hospital. The breadth of experience thus gained, together with his membership of the North-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board, proved of immense value when he became director of studies at the Institute of Urology and later chairman of the academic board and a member of the board of governors of the associated hospitals. In such various capacities he was instrumental in adding a third hospital - St Philip's - into the St Peter's framework, with the object of encouraging the development of medical urology, a branch of the speciality then still in its infancy. The 'three Ps' thus became a factual and endearing colloquialism for an accomplishment in which he played the major part.

As surgeon to St Peter's, he was in frequent contact with numerous visiting post-graduates from both home and abroad who attended the practice of the hospitals. This demanded an up-to-date appraisal of current surgical procedures, in the exposition of which he gained a high reputation and made many friends. He was President of the Section of Urology of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1933-34, and a founder member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons at its inception in 1945, being its second President in 1947-49. Overseas, he was accorded honorary membership of the Canadian and Finnish Urological Associations, but undoubtedly his most signal honour was the Presidency of the International Society of Urology. Already well acquainted with many of the leading figures in Continental urology during the earlier part of his career, his zest for travel created further bonds throughout the world.

He devoted considerable time on his retirement to a history of St Peter's Hospital for Stone to mark the centenary of the establishment of the hospital in Covent Garden in 1860. Here may be found memoirs and biographical notes revealing the personalities and abilities of many former members of the staff who strove to raise the standard of diagnosis and treatment in urology.

Clifford was known as a person who was always eager to offer encouragement to younger men. Though ever ready to discuss urology, he showed an innate understanding of general current affairs, and he was always ready to discourse on subjects related to his main recreation, listed in Who's who as 'all outdoor sports'. His vigour and mental acuity remained undiminished throughout his retirement.

In 1917 he married Adela Phene and they had three sons, one of whom is the distinguished pathologist, Basil Morson. He died on 5 January 1975, aged 93 years.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1975, 1, 216].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England