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Biographical entry Sampson, Herbert Henry (1886 - 1980)

OBE (Mil) 1918; MC 1916; MRCS 1910; FRCS 1911; MB ChB Birmingham 1909; LRCP 1910.

5 October 1886
Sutton Coldfield
7 February 1980
General surgeon


Herbert Henry Sampson was born in Sutton Coldfield on 5 October 1886. After education at King Edward VI School, Birmingham, he entered the University where he was reputed to have won all the prizes, scholarships and distinctions and was also victor ludorum. On graduating in 1909 he became a houseman and then resident pathologist. He passed his Final FRCS in 1911 several months before his twenty-fifth birthday and had to wait for the award of his diploma. Thereafter he worked with Arbuthnot Lane at Great Ormond Street Hospital; Lockhart-Mummery at St Mark's; Thompson Walker at St Peter's and Batten at the National Hospital, Queen's Square, before returning to Birmingham General as resident surgical officer in 1912.

On the outbreak of the first world war he was made acting house governor of the hospital and became assistant surgeon in 1915. He then joined the RAMC, working first with a field ambulance in France, then as a surgical specialist in casualty clearing stations, and finally as surgeon in charge of a forward hospital for chest and abdominal wounds. He became widely known for his outstanding work during this period and was awarded the MC and OBE.

On returning to Birmingham after the war he became the leading surgeon in the Midlands, working mainly at the Birmingham General and Children's Hospitals. He was a truly general surgeon: a pioneer in gastric surgery and in the repair of hare lip and cleft palate. He later undertook thoracic and early cardiac surgery and neurosurgery. He was reputed to be a man of broad judgement and high technical skill who acquitted himself admirably in this wide field of work. Apart from making complicated surgical procedures look remarkably straightforward, he was an outstanding diagnostian.

Widely known as 'Sammy' he inspired loyalty and affection in his trainees, ward sisters and theatre staff, though he did not suffer fools gladly. He inspired the confidence of his anaesthetists and, in return, received the best of their skill. He had great athletic ability and, as a young man had played as an amateur left half for West Bromwich Albion. He was a scratch golfer for many years, an excellent tennis player and a keen salmon fisherman. He also enjoyed skiing in Switzerland. Though a private and sensitive man he was highly popular with all those who worked with him, few of whom realised that he had a hand disability to overcome.

He retired to Jersey where he spent his days happily until his 94th year. Severe osteoarthritis of both hips was admirably relieved by bilateral hip replacement by Sir John Charnley. He married Leah Alfreda Scribbens in 1932 and they had four children one of whom qualified in medicine. He died at his home in Jersey on 7 February, 1980, and was survived by his wife and children.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1980, 1, 658].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England