Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Reading, Philip Vernon (1906 - 1998)

MRCS 1930; FRCS 1931; MB BS London 1931; MS 1933; LRCP 1930.

16 January 1906
7 July 1998
ENT surgeon and General surgeon


Philip Vernon Reading was senior ENT surgeon at Guy's. He was born on 16 January 1906 and educated at St Dunstan's College, Catford, and Guy's Hospital Medical School. He gained distinctions in surgery and midwifery, and was awarded the University gold medal in 1931. In the same year he passed his FRCS and two years later, in 1933, gained a masters degree in surgery.

Following qualification, he was appointed house officer at Guy's and pinned his hopes on being appointed to the senior staff there, but at that time no posts were vacant and he moved to the provinces, to the Birmingham area, where he practised as a general surgeon. His surgical technique was outstanding and he soon applied for a post at Selly Oak Hospital where, in 1935, he accepted an appointment as an assistant surgeon. Eventually a vacancy on the senior staff became available in ear, nose and throat surgery and he was urged to apply. This he did, but, feeling that his knowledge of the subject was inadequate when he was successful, he sought help from the literature and from colleagues practising in the specialty. In no time he became a highly respected and technically excellent surgeon in all three departments of the specialty. At about this time a post became available in the ear, nose and throat department of Guy's Hospital, and Reading was appointed to replace his old senior T B Layton.

His arrival at Guy's proved to be very short-lived - the second world war had now started and Reading was posted to a British military hospital in Egypt. Time hung heavy on his hands and he started to produce a textbook for students entitled Common diseases of the ears, nose and throat (London, J & A Churchill, 1950). This became a bestseller.

When he returned to Guy's, Reading felt that the ear, nose and throat department needed to be modernised. He introduced major surgery of the head and neck, and acquired an operating microscope, which enabled him to offer patients advanced treatment for deafness. He was also keen to improve medical illustrations and built up a collection of slides and drawings to help the teaching of medical students and postgraduate students. His energy was such that when the time came to establish a hospital department of medical illustration, Reading was appointed head of department, a post he occupied with distinction for 12 years.

He served for six years on the Court of Examiners of the College. Shortly before his retirement, he was elected to the Presidency of the section of otology of Royal Society of Medicine. He also acted as medical adviser to the Commonwealth Society for the Deaf.

Philip Reading was an unusually modest and self-effacing man, and for this reason his eminence as an ear, nose and throat surgeon was only properly appreciated after he had retired. Retirement for him meant an absolute separation from all medical practice and, as a gesture, on his last working day, he went down to London Bridge and ceremonially flung his head mirror into the waters of the Thames.

In 1935, he married Kathleen Seery, a Guy's nurse, who died in 1994. There was one daughter of the marriage. In his retirement in Alfriston in East Sussex, he devoted himself to wood carving, books and music and, above all, to the care of his beloved and beautiful garden. He died on 7 July 1998.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 15 July 1998, with portrait; BMJ 1998 317 686, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England