Lives of the fellows

William Smalley Holden

b.1 September 1912 d.5 January 1993
MB ChB Manch(1937) DMRD(1946) MRCP(1948) FFR(1952) FRCP(1972) FRCR(1975)

William Holden, Bill to colleagues and friends, was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, the son of Benjamin Holden, a pharmacist, and his wife Gertrude née Smalley. Very early on in his life he decided to study medicine. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Blackburn, and then entered the University of Manchester, pursuing his clinical studies at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Bill volunteered for medical service at the beginning of the 1939-45 war. He was captured in Boulogne during the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force, transported to Germany, and finally freed by the advancing Americans in 1945. For outstanding contributions during his service he was mentioned in despatches.

On returning from the war he became chief medical assistant at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and was eventually persuaded to seek a career in diagnostic radiology. During this period he obtained his membership of the College. He left Manchester in 1947 having been offered the post of assistant radiologist at the Royal Liverpool Infirmary where he subsequently became a consultant, continuing his practice until 1951.

At that time the radiological services at the United Oxford Hospitals were expanding rapidly. Fred Kemp [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.314] invited him to join his team, with a very specific brief to help with administration of the new department and also to take a major commitment in teaching. Bill had considerable flair in both areas and had great expectations when he joined the staff as a consultant and lecturer in the University. He certainly made an impact on developments in Oxford but in the end his ideas, which were forcefully expressed and occasionally quite revolutionary, were not always accepted or implemented. For this reason he left the department in 1961 to become a consultant radiologist in Torquay. There again his impact was considerable; he improved the services and achieved a very close collaboration between the departmental staff and clinical colleagues.

In his early career Bill already showed considerable interest in chest radiology and he became an active member of the Thoracic Society. Most of his scientific work was in chest radiology, where he made some important early observations on normal tracheal and bronchial movements during normal respiration and coughing using cine bronchography as the method of investigation. He expanded this work over the years to the studies of tracheal and bronchial behaviour in obstructive airways disease, emphysema, and various other chronic respiratory problems. He was also responsible for one of the earliest publications in this country on radiological manifestations of toxoplasmosis.

Many happy years were spent with his wife Ailsa, travelling extensively in Europe - particularly in Scandinavia, where he had a number of close friends in the radiological profession. He also became very much involved with the local Natural History Society in Torquay, serving as its president for three years. Unfortunately his last few years were marred by his final illness.

R E Steiner

(Volume IX, page 242)

<< Back to List