Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Riches, Sir Eric William (1897 - 1987)

Kt 1958; MC 1917; MRCS 1925; FRCS 1927; MB BS London 1925; MS 1927; LRCP 1925.

29 July 1897
Alford, Lincolnshire
8 November 1987
General surgeon and Urologist


Eric William Riches, the second child and eldest son of William Riches, a schoolmaster, and of Kate Riches (née Rowbotham), was born on 29 July 1897, at Alford, Lincolnshire. He was educated at St Dunstan's, Alford, and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Alford, before securing an entrance scholarship to Christ's Hospital where he won a number of prizes. After a further entrance scholarship to the Middlesex Hospital in 1915, he deferred his admission to join the Army, serving first in the 10th Lincoln and then the 11th Suffolk Regiments. Awarded an MC in 1917, he was demobilised in 1919 with the rank of Captain to enter medical school where he won a second year exhibition, the Lyell Gold Medal in surgery and a Senior Broderip Scholarship. On graduating in 1925 he was house physician to Drs R A Young and George Beaumont, and then house surgeon to G G Taylor (later Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor) before demonstrating anatomy at the Middlesex and working as a prosector at the Royal College of Surgeons. He secured the MS and final FRCS in 1927 and became surgical registrar to Blundell Bankart and Alfred Webb-Johnson before his appointment to the surgical staff of the Middlesex in 1930. He began primarily as a general surgeon with a special interest in urology and was also appointed to the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth and to St Andrew's, Dollis Hill. He became consultant urologist to the Army and to the Royal Masonic Hospital, and consulting surgeon to the Ministry of Pensions Spinal Injuries Centre.

Eric Riches was a Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1938, and both Hunterian Professor and Jacksonian Prizeman in 1942. He served six years on the Court of Examiners and sixteen years on Council, being Vice-President in 1961-62. He was successively Bradshaw lecturer, Arnott demonstrator and Gordon-Taylor lecturer. For many years he acted as curator of historic surgical instruments at the College. He was a most energetic man who took an enthusiastic interest in teaching his students and in training young surgeons. He published many urological papers and wrote or contributed to several books, including Modern trends in urology and Tumours of the kidney and ureter. He was also a lively and effective speaker at the many societies he supported: President in medallist of the British Association of Urological Surgeons; President and Lettsomian lecturer of the Medical Society of London; President and orator of the Hunterian Society. At the Royal Society of Medicine he was a Vice-President, honorary librarian, and had been President of the Clinical, Surgery and Urology Sections. He was also chairman of the editorial committee and treasurer of the British journal of urology. He received the well-earned accolade of Knight Bachelor in 1958. But his reputation was international; he had been elected to the American Association of Genito-Urinary Surgeons in 1953; he was Vice-President of the International Society of Urology in 1961 and president at that society's 13th Congress in London in 1964. He retained a great love for his old school, Christ's Hospital, where he became a governor in 1958 and a member of the Council of Almoners in 1960. In 1966 he was appointed to the house and finance and education committees, and became deputy chairman in the following year. From 1970 to 1976 he succeeded his old friend and patient, Sir Barnes Wallis as treasurer and chairman of the Council of Almoners.

Sir Eric was a superb surgical technician and innovator, a modest man with a friendly smile, and it was inevitable that he should build up a large and highly successful private practice which he continued for many years after his retirement in 1962: indeed he eventually had to be given firm encouragement to stop operating. He included among his hobbies photography, golf and music, with considerable enthusiasm for the last two, though even he admitted that his standard of performance on the cello did not quite match up to his earlier surgical skill. For the last few years of his life, in sad contrast to his lively character and exuberance in former years, he survived in poor and deteriorating health.

He was twice married, first to Dr Annie Brand. They had two daughters: one of whom, Dr Anne Riches, is in general practice. After the death of his first wife he married Ann Kitton, a nurse at the Middlesex Hospital, and they had one daughter. When he died, aged 90, on 8 November 1987, he was survived by his second wife and the daughters of both marriages. A thanksgiving service was held at St Marylebone Parish Church where the address was given by Professor Leslie LeQuesne with the Christ's Hospital Choir and Brass Ensemble in attendance.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1987, 295, 1492; Lancet 1987, 2, 1347 with portrait; The Times 10 November 1987].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England