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Biographical entry Joseph, William Eric (1898 - 1983)

MRCS 1924; FRCS by election 1963; MB ChB Cambridge 1937; LRCP 1924.

10 January 1983
General surgeon


William Eric Joseph was born in 1898, the only son of a Congregational minister. He was educated at Taunton School and in 1916 won an open scholarship to Peterhouse College Cambridge. By then he had entered the Artillery Cadet Training School in Exeter, and the scholarship was kept open for him until his return from war service. He was commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery in 1917, and later that year was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps. He served as a pilot in an artillery observation and photographic reconnaissance squadron in France for the last nine months of the war and was promoted Captain and Flight Commander.

Six weeks before the end of hostilities he was severely wounded in action, but managed to fly his aeroplane back to base. Following this he was in hospital for nine months as a result of his injuries and was invalided out of the service. In 1919 he went up to Peterhouse to read natural sciences and then to St Thomas's Hospital Medical School where he qualified with the Conjoint examination in 1924. He was appointed assistant medical officer at Whipps Cross Hospital, Leytonstone in 1925, and in 1931 became senior medical officer, "mainly surgical".

During the second world war he carried virtually the whole surgical workload of the hospital himself. Leytonstone was one of the most heavily bombed areas of East London and casualties were numerous. He worked tirelessly for long hours and his diagnostic accuracy and the speed and technical mastery of his operating became legendary.

With the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 he was appointed full-time consultant surgeon at Whipps Cross and he continued to work there until his retirement in 1963. He was universally and affectionately known by everyone as Joe. In recognition of his work there and his lifetime dedication to surgery he was elected FRCS without examination, an honour which gave him great pleasure.

He had been a widower for over 25 years and had no children, but he made deep and lasting friendships which he valued greatly during his retirement and he was very proud of his niece Jane Morris-Goodall, the anthropologist. He died in Bournemouth on 10 January 1983 at the age of 84.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1983, 286, 405-6; Lancet 1983, 1, 254-5].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England