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Biographical entry Francis, William John Lawrence (1906 - 1994)

MRCS and FRCS 1936; MB ChB 1928; ChM 1937; MD Glasgow 1954; MRad Liverpool 1949; DMRT 1949.

10 June 1906
Twechar, Dumbartonshire
2 October 1994
General practitioner, General surgeon and Radiotherapist


William Francis was born on 10 June 1906 in Twechar, Dumbartonshire, the eldest son of the Reverend James Francis and his wife Janet Bilsland, née Mackellar. He was educated at the Greenock Academy and at Glasgow University, where he distinguished himself by winning the BMA Essay Prize. He qualified MB ChB in 1928, then came south for his junior hospital appointments between 1929 and 1936. At the Bradford Royal Infirmary he worked for James Philips who set him on the surgical road; in Salford he was strongly influenced by Sir Geoffrey Jefferson but here he also fell under the spell of the theatre sister Frances Chapman, whom he married in 1936. In the same year he gained both his FRCS and the ChM of Glasgow and was appointed assistant surgeon to the Royal Halifax Infirmary. At the outbreak of war he volunteered for military service but was directed to remain in Halifax as both surgeon and general practitioner. In 1946, however, he was able to join up and served as lieutenant colonel RAMC in Trieste, treating many of the wounded from the Yugoslav conflict.

After demobilisation he decided on a career switch: he enrolled on a two year course in radiotherapy at Liverpool University, emerging with the MRad Liverpool and the DMRT in 1949. He was consultant radiotherapist at the Liverpool Radium Institute for two years but in 1951 was appointed to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in the same capacity, retiring in 1971 after twenty years of distinguished service. A kindly man of great integrity, he won respect for these qualities wherever he worked. He was a man of wide interests, enjoying literature, French conversation and astronomy, and regularly attended church. He took up computer programming at the age of 62.

He died on 2 October 1994, his wife having predeceased him in 1989. He was survived by his only son, James Stewart Macduff Francis, a computer systems analyst.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England