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Biographical entry Townsley, Norman Joyce (1905 - 2001)

MRCS and FRCS 1937; BSc Belfast 1927; MB BCh BAO 1930.

1 November 1905
11 March 2001
General surgeon


Norman Joyce Townsley was a consultant general surgeon at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. He was born on 1 November 1905. His father was a solicitor's assistant, while his elder brother, Gerald, became a surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital, Rochester. Prior to engaging in clinical studies at Queen's University, Belfast, Norman obtained a BSc in anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. His knowledge of anatomy was outstanding and always clinically relevant. He was a contemporary of William Hamilton and Dickson Boyd, being related to the latter on his mother's side of the family.

Early house appointments and those of resident surgical officer were in the Manchester area, where he gained wide experience in general surgery and many specialties, including paediatric surgery, neurosurgery with Jefferson, urology with MacAlpine, and later orthopaedic surgery and 'radium therapy' in London. He and his brother travelled in Europe to see and assist some of the famous European surgeons as part of their training, before Norman became a resident surgical officer in Norwich from 1937. He was appointed assistant surgeon to the famous Jenny Lind Hospital for Children in 1942, gaining a similar temporary post in 1944 at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, before he was released for military service as a Major in the 1st Airborne division. He served in Norway and then in India.

Norman Townsley was amongst the first group of surgeons appointed in 1946 as 'honorary' consultants to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, turning his hand to the generality of surgery, as well as neurosurgery. His day for pre-frontal leucotomies was Sunday! His impish sense of humour was seen best in the operating theatre as he quizzed the junior staff (and nurses) on anatomy.

He was a much valued member of the Travelling Surgical Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, becoming its temporary secretary during the first post-war visit to Norway. Although he retired in 1970, he continued to do locums until the age of 72. He never enjoyed committee work, although the more far-sighted administrators often came to his house late at night to seek his unofficial and wise advice.

Although seemingly short of breath, he had in his earlier days played wing three quarter for Waterloo Park, declaring that such positions only required short bursts of energy. He was an avid collector of paintings, silver and antiques, being knowledgeable on the Norwich School of Painting and being early in the recognition of the works of Edward Seago.

In 1940, he married Alice Eleanora Dickie, who became a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Norwich in 1963. They had two children, a daughter and a son, who is a general practitioner in Southwold, Suffolk. There are five grandchildren. Norman and his wife lived their latter years in a delightful house adjacent to the Broads at Wroxham. His wife predeceased him in 1998. He died on 11 March 2001.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2001 322 1251].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England