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Biographical entry Negus, Sir Victor Ewings (1887 - 1974)

Kt 1956; MRCS 1912; FRCS 1921; MB BS London 1921; MS 1924; Hon FRCS Ed; Hon FRCSI; Hon DSc Manchester; LRCP 1912.

6 February 1887
15 July 1974
ENT surgeon


Victor Ewings Negus was born in London on 6 February 1887, the third son of a solicitor, William Negus JP, and his wife Emily (Ewings). He was educated at King's College School, King's College, and entered King's College Hospital in 1909 with a Sambrooke Exhibition, qualifying in 1912. As a student earlier that year he had been an usher in Westminster Abbey at the funeral of Lord Lister. After house appointments at the hospital, during which he was a dresser to Sir Watson Cheyne, he joined the RAMC immediately on the outbreak of the first world war and early in August 1914 went to France with the 1st General Hospital. After serving at the base he joined a regiment in the first battle of Ypres and after being blown up in the trenches, was appointed to hospital barges. Indeed, he was left with a tinnitus that persisted throughout his life. In 1916 he was posted to Mesopotamia and served there with the 3rd Lahore Division until the end of the war, during which he was awarded the Mons Star and was mentioned in despatches.

In 1921 he graduated MB BS took the FRCS and was house surgeon at the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat, Golden Square. He studied at Bordeaux, attended Chevalier Jackson's courses on peroral endoscopy at Philadelphia and then became clinical assistant in St Clair Thomson's ENT department at King's. On his return from America he had advocated the use of Chevalier Jackson's methods and instruments, but in collaboration with Mr Schranz, of the Genito-Urinary Company in London, he redesigned the laryngoscopes, bronchoscopes and oesophagoscopes and later these were used all over the world. Among the many instruments he helped to devise was the Negus bronchoscope, which gave both proximal and distal illumination and by incorporating a funnel shape in the proximal portion facilitated the insertion of forceps. In 1924 he was awarded the Gold Medal at the MS examination of the University of London and that year was appointed junior surgeon in the ENT department at King's, becoming surgeon in 1931 and senior surgeon in 1940. In 1946 he was appointed consulting surgeon. It was said that he was one of the first King's College Hospital consultants who recognised the importance of teaching house surgeons to operate. Once satisfied about a man's capabilities he became the perfect guide, philosopher and friend.

At the Royal College of Surgeons he was Arris and Gale Lecturer in 1924, Hunterian Professor in 1925 and was awarded the John Hunter Medal and Triennial Prize for 1925-27. He was President of the Listerian Society from 1939 to 1941 and was awarded the Lister Medal in 1954. He became a Fellow of King's College, and a member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons to represent otolaryngology. He was a member of numerous otolaryngological societies at home and overseas and was elected President of the Thoracic Society for 1949-50 and of the British Association of Otorhinolaryngologists in 1951. In 1949 he was President of the International Congress of Otolaryngology in London. For 20 years until 1956 he was honorary treasurer of the Collegium Oto-rhino-laryngologicum Amicitiae Sacrum and was President at its annual meeting in London in 1954. He was knighted in 1956.

Negus was a tireless worker and strove to keep laryngology a strict surgical science, and did much to enhance the status of the speciality. He undertook fundamental research into the comparative anatomy and physiology of the larnyx and paranasal sinuses. His Mechanism of the larynx was published in 1929. Comparative anatomy and physiology of the nose and paranasal sinuses appeared in 1958. The fourth edition of Diseases of the nose and throat, originally by St Clair Thomson, appeared in 1937 in association with Victor Negus and he edited its sixth edition published in 1955. This was Negus's major literary contribution to clinical medicine. The Biology of respiration appeared in 1965.

When he left the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons he was actively employed at the College as a Trustee of the Hunterian Collection from 1954. It was under his Chairmanship of the Trustees that the catalogues of the surviving Hunterian specimens were published, the pathological series in 1966 and 1972, the physiological series in 1970-71. He also wrote the official history of the Hunterian Trustees in 1965, and the catalogue of the artistic possessions of the College in 1967. His thoroughness and attention to detail has become a legend.

In his leisure time Sir Victor was equally energetic, playing tennis with great cunning until he was 70. Later he concentrated on golf, played regularly in the winter and was President of the Medical Golfing Society. For many years he played golf or tennis in the matches between staff and students at King's College Hospital, and when he retired from King's in 1952 and became director of the Ferens Institute at the Middlesex Hospital he played golf for the staff against the Middlesex students. His dexterity at billiards was such that he was seldom beaten by the students or colleagues. Besides salmon fishing, one of his favourite occupations was felling trees.

He married Winifred Adelaide Gladys (Eve) Rennie in 1929, and she accompanied him on his numerous tours to all parts of the world. They had two sons, one of whom became a consultant surgeon. In his later years, living in Haslemere, he was President of the Friends of the Holy Cross Hospital, and of the local arthritis council in Haslemere. He died on 15 July 1974.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1974, 3, 263, 355; Times 16 July 1974].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England