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Biographical entry Hadley, Kenneth John (1925 - 1983)

BSc Birmingham 1946; MB ChB 1954; FRCS 1959.

11 July 1925
24 April 1983
Isle of Wight
ENT surgeon


Kenneth John Hadley was born in Birmingham in 1925 and after early education entered the University of Birmingham to study physics, graduating with first class honours in 1946. He then worked in the medical physics department of Queen Elizabeth Hospital and during this time became interested in a medical career. After three years he entered the medical school, qualifying in 1954 having obtained prizes in anatomy and surgery. After early hospital posts which included those to the professorial units of medicine and surgery he became interested in otorhinolaryngology, passing the FRCS in 1959. He was then appointed senior registrar to the United Bristol Hospitals and while there developed a special interest in the treatment of carcinoma of the larynx. In 1963 he was appointed consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Plymouth and in addition to his main hospital work he also visited hospitals at Bude, Tavistock and Launceston. Apart from his professional work he was an accomplished pianist. His career was tragically cut short by his sudden death on 24 April 1983 at the age of 57, while holidaying on the Isle of Wight. He is survived by his wife Jean, his son John, a medical student at Oxford, and daughter Janet, a radiographer.

The following obituary was written in October 2015 after the Royal College of Surgeons received additional information from the family.

Kenneth John Hadley was a consultant ENT surgeon at Plymouth General Hospital. He was born in Birmingham on 11 July 1925, the son of Herbert Charles and Doris Hadley. His brother Ivor also qualified in medicine. Hadley attended Holly Lodge Grammar School, Smethwick, and went on to study physics at Birmingham University on a state bursary, graduating with first class honours in 1946. He then gained a postgraduate research scholarship, working with the distinguished nuclear physicist Mark Oliphant. In 1948 Hadley became an assistant physicist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

In 1949 he decided to qualify in medicine and, on a scholarship, joined the second year of the medical school at Birmingham University. He won several prizes, including the Peter Thompson prize for anatomy and the Joseph Sankey prize for surgery. He qualified MB ChB in 1954.

He was a house surgeon and house physician on the professorial units of medicine and surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. He went on to gain experience in general, accident and paediatric surgery and in radiotherapy. He was a surgical registrar at the Children's Hospital, Birmingham, and eventually decided to specialise in ENT surgery.

In 1961 he was appointed as a senior registrar in ENT surgery to the United Bristol Hospitals. Here he became interested in new techniques for the treatment of carcinoma of the larynx and published papers on this topic. In 1963 he was appointed to his consultant post in Plymouth. He was widely respected for his clinical ability and, in addition to his work for the NHS, built up a large and successful private practice. He was an expert on the management of post-cricoid carcinoma and developed the use of the optical microscope in Plymouth for the operation of stapedectomy.

Outside medicine, he had many interests. He was extremely well read, a fine musician and the proud owner of a grand piano upon which he would play Chopin and Beethoven, among other works. He was also fond of the outdoors and was a keen do-it-yourself man. He was kind, friendly and modest, with a good sense of humour.

Tragically Kenneth Hadley died suddenly and unexpectedly on 24 April 1983 while on holiday on the Isle of Wight. He was just 57. He was survived by his devoted wife Jean Mary (née Bullock), whom he married in June 1953, and their two children, Janet, a radiographer, and John, who was in his final year of medical school at Oxford when his father died and went on to become an ENT surgeon and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Sarah Gillam

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1983 287 221; information from Mrs Jean Hadley; information from Rev Maurice Comeau; Aesculapius: The University of Birmingham Medical and Dental Graduates Society June 1983].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England