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Biographical entry Small, Jack Morton (1913 - 1994)

MRCS 1937; FRCS 1939; MB ChB Birmingham 1937; LRCP 1937.

18 March 1913
23 March 1994


Jack Small was born on 18 March 1913 in Birmingham, the son of Ernest Small MBE, a mechanical engineer who designed the barrage balloon winches used in air defence in the second world war, and his wife Charlotte Elizabeth, née Morton. Jack was educated at Wylde Green College and Birmingham University Medical School, where he was Ingleby scholar and qualified with honours in 1937.

After house jobs at Birmingham General Hospital with H H Sampson and Robert Scott Mason, both of whom he greatly admired, he was appointed casualty surgeon there from 1940 to 1942, also working in the neurosurgical unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In 1943 he spent a valuable year training in neurosurgery with Sir Hugh Cairns in Oxford and this really moulded his future career in that specialty.

He then joined the RAMC, commanding No 6 and 7 mobile neurosurgical units under the command of Brigadier Arthur Porritt in the European Campaign, and subsequently he was made adviser in neurosurgery to Allied Land Forces in SEAC, serving in India and Malaya with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

On his return to civilian life in 1946 he was appointed consultant neurosurgeon to the United Birmingham Hospitals, working at the Queen Elizabeth, and became clinical lecturer in neurosurgery to Birmingham University. At that time there was no separate neurosurgical centre in the Midlands, and in 1948 Jack Small was appointed neurosurgeon to Birmingham Regional Hospital Board with the remit of creating one. The result was the formation of the Midland Centre for Neurosurgery and Neurology which opened in 1954 on the site of the old Smethwick Isolation Hospital, and the construction of which was achieved largely due to Jack's considerable efforts. This centre provided neurosurgical care for the whole Midland region and he worked there until his retirement from the NHS in 1978.

He possessed great surgical skill, clinical acumen and administrative ability, and he served first as treasurer (1961-1971) and then as President (1976) of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons. It gave him great pleasure when this Society held its golden jubilee meeting in the Jack Small Teaching and Research Unit at the Midlands Centre in his Presidential year. He was also a corresponding member of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and of the Spanish, French and Middle Eastern neurosurgical societies. He was elected Hunterian Professor of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1980. His retirement dinner at the Midland Centre was marked by the presentation of his portrait (by Peter Gross) which had been subscribed for by his colleagues and friends.

After the war he wrote up his experience of 1200 cases of penetrating brain injury in NW Europe between 1944 and 1945. He was particularly interested in the embryology of the nervous system, and had a wide clinical experience of spinal cord tumours and defects, and syringomyelia. He also did important work on the surgery of cerebral aneurysms under circulatory arrest and heart bypass.

As a young man Jack Small was an outstanding athlete and hurdler. He was British Universities' 400m hurdle champion from 1934 to 1936, and represented Great Britain in the World Student Games in Budapest in 1935. He was also a fine golfer with a 6 handicap, and a keen fisherman.

After retirement he became actively involved in local politics, and in 1977 he was elected Conservative county councillor to the Alvechurch ward of Hereford and Worcester County Council. He became chairman of social services and was particularly involved in community hospital development and in trying to combine health and social services under one authority.

In 1940 he married Marjorie, née Johnson, and they had two sons, Peter, a recruitment consultant, and Robert, a marketing consultant. He died, aged 81, on 23 March 1994 after a long and successful career in neurosurgery and politics.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from his widow, Mrs Marjorie Small, and Dr Edwin Bickerstaff FRCP].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England