Lives of the fellows

Charles West

b.8 August 1816 d.19 March 1898
MD Berlin(1837) FRCP(1848)

Charles West was born in London, the son of a Baptist lay preacher. He was educated at a school run by his father at Chenies and then apprenticed to a general practitioner in Amersham. In 1833 he entered St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, but after two years transferred his studies to Bonn and thence to Paris and Berlin, where he took his medical degree in 1837. An attempt to enter general practice in the City on his return met with little success, and he visited Dublin to make a special study of midwifery. Settled once more in London, he was made physician to the Infirmary for Women and Children, Waterloo Road, in 1842, and began to lecture on midwifery at the Middlesex Hospital in 1845. In 1848, he published a course of lectures on Diseases of Infancy and Childhood, which reached a seventh edition and was widely translated. From that year until 1861, he was lecturer on midwifery at St. Bartholomew’s and the publication of his lectures on Diseases of Women in 1856 met with a similar success.

West’s most enduring work, however, was the foundation in 1852 of the Hospital for Sick Children in Richard Mead’s house in Great Ormond Street, in which he and Bence Jones played leading parts. He himself was the Hospital’s senior physician for twenty-three years. He was Senior Censor at the Royal College of Physicians and delivered the Croonian Lectures in 1854, the Lumleian Lectures in 1871 and the Harveian Oration in 1874. After 1880, he practised in Nice during the winter months. West, although an able man and a fine public speaker, was not an easy colleague and became involved in feuds both at St. Bartholomew’s and at Great Ormond Street. He fiercely opposed the admission of women to the medical profession. He married, first, the daughter of N. B. Cartwright of Stroud, by whom he had a son and a daughter, and, secondly, a Miss Flon. He died in Paris.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1898 and 1952; B.M.J., 1898 and 1952; Times, 23 Mar. 1898; Moore, ii, 727; D.N.B., lx, 327; F. J. Poynton, Address upon some Incidents in the History of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, 1939]

(Volume IV, page 53)

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