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Biographical entry Somerville, Edgar William (1913 - 1996)

FRCS ad eundem 1970; MB BChir Cambridge 1938; MA 1940; FRCS Edinburgh 1941.

4 November 1913
Leek, Staffordshire
11 March 1996
Orthopaedic surgeon


Edgar Somerville was born in Leek, Staffordshire, on 4 November 1913, the son of Edgar Watson Somerville, a general practitioner who had the FRCS Edinburgh, and his wife Muriel Helen, née Watson. His grandfather too had been awarded the Scottish diploma and his brother, Philip Graham Somerville, is a Fellow of the College.

His early education was at Shrewsbury School before entering Emmanuel College, Cambridge, for pre-clinical studies. He was awarded a blue for hockey and represented his college at tennis and squash. His clinical studies were at St George's Hospital and after qualifying in 1938 he served as house surgeon and house physician there, where he came under the influence of Mr B H Burns and Mr M F Nicholls. He was then appointed surgical registrar at the EMS Emergency Hospital, Windsor, and obtained the FRCS Edinburgh in 1941 before joining the RAF Medical Service from 1941 to 1946. He served in England and the Middle East as a surgical specialist with the rank of wing commander.

After demobilisation he was appointed resident surgical officer and research fellow at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry and was Nuffield Travelling Fellow in the United States in 1948. Later in that year he was appointed consultant at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford and in 1952, as co-author with G R Girdlestone, produced the second edition of Tuberculosis of bones and joints. A particular interest was the surgical treatment of congenital dislocation of the hip by a direct surgical approach, stressing the rôle of the inverted limbus in preventing concentric reduction. He was among the first to advocate osteotomy in the treatment of Perthes' disease of the hip and also contributed articles on congenital coxa vara.

He was President of the Orthopaedic Research Society in 1967 and of the Orthopaedic Section of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1972. He was also Vice-President of the British Orthopaedic Association in 1976, having been editorial secretary from 1957 to 1960. In 1970 he was made FRCS ad eundem and retired from hospital practice in 1973. In 1981 after retirement he incorporated all his ideas in a book entitled Development of the hip in childhood.

Throughout his life he travelled widely, lecturing and operating. He played a leading rôle in setting up the first orthopaedic service in the Sudan and also visited Rangoon, where he started similar arrangements for the Ministry for Overseas Development. He married Margaret Esson in 1941 and they had one daughter, Judith, who trained as a nurse at St Thomas's Hospital. After retiring he pursued his interests of golf at Hunter Combe and sailing in the North Sea and the Bay of Biscay. His wife died in 1981 and he died on 11 March 1996, survived by his daughter and two grandsons, William and James.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 6 April 1996; J bone joint surg (Br) 1996 78 678].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England