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Biographical entry Spencer, Herbert (1915 - 1993)

MRCS 1937; FRCS 1940; MB BS London 1937; MD London 1940; DTMH 1948; PhD London 1954; LRCP 1937; MRCP 1963; FRCP 1971; FRCPath Founder Fellow 1963.

8 February 1915
Barnet, Hertfordshire
1 June 1993


Herbert Spencer was born in Barnet, Hertfordshire, on 8 February 1915, the son of Hubert John Spencer, a coat manufacturer, and his wife Edith Maude, née Lodge. His early education was at Highgate Junior and Senior Schools, and he entered St Mary's Hospital Medical School for his medical studies, where he won prizes in biology and surgery. He qualified in 1937 and after serving as house surgeon to in-patients and out-patients passed the FRCS in 1940. He was then appointed surgical registrar to the emergency medical services at St Mary's Hospital and later became Erasmus Wilson demonstrator at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Although his career began with surgical ambitions, a severe attack of typhoid fever made him change direction to specialise in pathology. In 1942 he joined the RAMC serving in Iraq, Iran and Egypt until 1947 as a specialist pathologist with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. After the war he was appointed pathologist to the Archway group of hospitals and later senior lecturer, reader and professor of morbid anatomy at St Thomas's Hospital. His chief interest lay in the pathology of diseases of the lung and he was one of the first to use electron microscopy in the study of these conditions. His main publication Pathology of the lung first appeared in 1962 and ran to many editions. Another publication Tropical pathology appeared in 1973.

He served as examiner in pathology to the conjoint board and primary FRCS examinations and was also examiner for the MRCP and on the editorial board of Thorax. He retired in 1980 but as a dedicated Christian continued to give support to missionary hospitals. In 1940 he married Eileen Morgan and there were three daughters and one son of the marriage. He died on 1 June 1993, aged 78.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1993 307 378, with portrait; The Times 1 July 1993].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England