Lives of the fellows

Henry Charles Gustav Semon

b.9 March 1881 d.16 March 1971
MRCS LRCP(1905) BM BCh Oxon(1906) DM(1911) MRCP(1912) FRCP(1936)

Henry Semon was born at 39 Wimpole Street, the eldest son of Sir Felix Semon, the laryngologist, and Augusta Redeker of Hanover, a singer who was a star of the London concert platform before her marriage. Her father lived at Dvinglor in Hanover. Semon was educated at Clifton College and Magdalen College Oxford and, in 1903, obtained a scholarship to University College Hospital.

In 1909-10 he took first place in the examination for the Indian Medical Service and served as an officer in the IMS until the first World War. During the war he was ordered by the India Office to proceed to Brockenhurst where a hospital for Indians was opened. He worked there as a pathologist and radiologist until 1916 when he was sent to France as a Captain in the RAMC in charge of a mobile x-ray unit. After this he was posted as dermatologist to the 25th General Hospital near Boulogne. He remained there until 1917 and stayed in France until four months after the Armistice looking after the civil population. For this service he was awarded the Médaille d’Honneur de l’Assistance Publique.

After the war Henry Semon devoted himself entirely to the practice of dermatology and studied under Sir Archibald Gray at University College Hospital and Dr. Barber, who became a very close friend. He was appointed physician for Diseases of the Skin to the Royal Northern and Hampstead General Hospitals and was also on the staff of the King George Hospital, Ilford, and served as medical referee for Industrial Dermatitis to the Ministry of Insurance. In 1936 he was elected FRCP, and in 1941 was elected President of the Dermatological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, an appointment which he held until 1943. When the 10th International Congress of Dermatology was held in London in 1952 Semon was elected Vice President.

Among his more important publications were an Atlas of the Common Diseases of the Skin which achieved a world wide circulation and ran into five editions, the first being published in 1934 and the fifth in 1957. He also contributed the section on skin diseases for the Synopsis for Special Subjects for the use of general practitioners.

Apart from his work, Henry Semon was interested in golf, music and gardening, and he retained these interests to the end of a long life. While not a great golfer, he was a keen one and donated a silver tankard for which the staff of the Royal Northern compete annually.

On May 2nd 1935 Henry Semon married Marjorie, daughter of Charles F. Pilcher, a stockbroker of London.

On his retirement they went to live at Penn in Buckinghamshire and Semon was able to devote his time to gardening and music. Those who visited Dr. and Mrs. Semon at Penn will remember the quiet elegance of their surroundings. In the words of an eminent colleague "he was a very civilised man".

HTH Wilson

[Brit.med.J., 1971, 1, 730]

(Volume VI, page 401)

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