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Biographical entry Williams, Bernard Norman (1932 - 1995)

MRCS 1955; FRCS 1961; MB ChB Birmingham 1955; ChM 1969; MD 1980; LRCP 1955.

20 April 1932
Stockport, Cheshire
10 August 1995


Bernard Williams was born on 20 April 1932 in Stockport, Cheshire, the son of Francis Bernard Williams, a shoe retailer, and Hope Johnson, the daughter of the sea captain and author Walter Rise Hawkins Johnson. He was educated at Stretford Grammar School and the University of Birmingham, where he qualified in medicine in 1955.

After junior appointments at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and National Service in the RAMC he worked as a casualty officer at the Central Middlesex Hospital, Acton, and the Park Hospital, Davyhulme, before being appointed neurosurgical registrar at the National Hospital, Queen Square, in 1960. He then worked as research assistant to Eric Turner at Birmingham with an MRC grant before being appointed senior registrar in neurosurgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1963. In 1970 he was appointed consultant neurosurgeon to Hull Royal Infirmary, and three years later he transferred posts to the University of Birmingham and the Midland Centre for Neurosurgery in order to further his academic work.

Bernard Williams was an outstanding neurosurgeon who combined an international reputation for pioneering research with great clinical and operative skills. His main research interest was in syringomyelia where he was a recognised international authority, and he also made major contributions in the physiology of the cerebro-spinal fluid, arachnoid cysts and subdural empyema. His publications were prolific and he lectured extensively both at home and abroad.

The subject of his MD thesis in 1980 was cerebro-spinal fluid pressure and deformities of the neuraxis. He was awarded the Casey-Hollter memorial prize in 1977, and was Arris and Gale lecturer of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1981. More recently he had been awarded the Pudenz prize (1994) from the International Society for Paediatric Neurosurgery and the Jacksonian prize (1995) of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Bernard Williams was a very sociable person with a keen sense of humour and he was an excellent raconteur. He was a champion chess player and enjoyed climbing and motor cycling - ironically it was a motor cycle accident resulting in serious head injuries which caused his death on 10 August 1995 at the age of 63.

He married twice - firstly in 1962 to Colinette Beauchamp, a nurse, by whom he had one son and three daughters (one of whom, Helen, is a GP) and secondly to Susan Raffie, a radiographer. They had two further children, one of whom, Georgina, intends to become a neurosurgeon.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1996 312 179, with portrait; information from A D Hockley FRCS].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England