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Biographical entry Wilkinson, Michael Charles (1899 - 1980)

MRCS 1923; FRCS 1951; MB BS London 1928; LRCP 1923.

1 May 1899
Thetymu, Burma
10 October 1980
Orthopaedic surgeon


Michael Wilkinson was the eldest of six sons of Charles Robert Wilkinson and was born in Thetymu, Burma, on 1 May 1899. His father, a civil servant, grandfather and great grandfather were missionaries, and all served in India. His mother was Elizabeth Florence Sinclair and her father was a merchant. He was educated at Caldey Grange Grammar School, and King William's College in the Isle of Man. In 1918 he served in the 25th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as a Second-Lieutenant, and their casualties in front of the Hindenburg Line were particularly severe and mentioned in the official history of the war.

His medical education started at St Thomas's Hospital and during the next five years he received tuition from many famous surgeons including Bristow, Fairbank, Twistington-Higgins, Elmslie, Brockman, Higgs, Trethowan, Gauvain and Pugh. His training included house surgical appointments at St Thomas's the Royal Northern and Great Ormond Street. He was the first resident medical officer at Chailey and later became senior assistant at Queen Mary's Hospital at Carshalton. He was appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Black Notley Hospital in Essex where he developed his particular interest in the treatment of tuberculosis of bones and joints. He became both a national and an international expert on this subject, and was a Hunterian Professor in 1948. With Edgar Somervill he prepared the 1965 edition of Girdlestone's Tuberculosis of bone and joint, and Orthopaedics for nurses with Geoffrey Fisk. He also published many papers on the general management and surgical treatment of tuberculosis. During the period of his consultant work at Black Notley he organised postgraduate training and was a popular figure and adviser at British Orthopaedic Association meetings.

In 1929 he married Helen Craig Wilcox from Rochester, New York, and they had three sons and five daughters. One son, Peter, is a microbiologist.

Michael Wilkinson was a deeply religious man who interwove his work and beliefs. Both his great-grandfather and grandfather worked for the Church Missionary Society. A convert to Roman Catholicism he was for twenty years on the Council of Saint Luke, Saint Cosmas and Saint Damien (a Catholic doctor's guild) and was awarded the Papal decoration Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in 1962. On his retirement he returned for a while to the Isle of Man but returned to the mainland in 1971, settling down at Buckfast Abbey and became an Oblate of the Order of St Benedict. He died on 10 October 1980, the fifth anniversary of his wife Helen's death and was buried in sight of his beloved Abbey. He was survived by his daughters and two of his sons.

Sources used to compile this entry: [J Bone Joint Surg 1981, 63B, 280].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England