Lives of the fellows

Henry John Forbes (Sir) Simson

b.12 December 1872 d.13 September 1932
KCVO(1925) MB CM Edin(1895) FRCSE(1899) MRCP(1901) FRCP(1926) FCOG(1929)

Sir Henry Simson, the most distinguished London obstetrician of his day, was born at Bareilly, India, where his father, Robert Simson, was in the Bengal Civil Service. His mother was Amy Inglis.

From the Collegiate School he entered the Medical School of Edinburgh University, and after graduation held resident posts at the city’s Royal Infirmary, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Fever Hospital and Royal Maternity Hospital, where he served under Sir Halliday Croom to whose influence he was to owe much of his later success. In 1920 he decided to settle in London. For many years he was surgeon to the Hospital for Women, Soho Square, obstetric surgeon to the West London Hospital, and the progressive dean of its Post-Graduate School, examiner to the Conjoint Board and to Leeds University, and chairman of the Princess Christian Day Nursery at Hammersmith. During the 1914-18 War he was consultant to the Maternity Hospital for Officers’ Wives. As by its end his name was already a byword in his specialty, he was the obvious choice as the attendant at the births of the four grandchildren of King George V, who made him a K.C.V.O, in 1925. Because of his passionate wish to see a reduction in maternal deaths he worked hard for the foundation of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, of which he was an early fellow and a member of council.

Simson was a man of enormous energy who never spared himself in his hospital and private practice. Although reserved and completely lacking in ostentation he was a firm friend, ever generous in time and helpful advice to his junior colleagues; he radiated human sympathy to them and to his patients. He had many hobbies; he never lost his schooldays’ interest in Rugby football, was a good shot, a skilful angler and a keen golfer, reached high office in Freemasonry, and enjoyed his membership of the Garrick and Saville Clubs. In 1908 he married Lena Margaret Ashwell, O.B.E., a well-known actress. They had no family.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1932, 2, 613-14 (p); J. Obstet. Gynaec. Brit. Emp., 1932, 39, 920-23; Lancet, 1932, 2, 710-11 (p); Med. Life, 1932, 39, 602-05 (p).]

(Volume V, page 378)

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