Lives of the fellows

Ernest Rohan Williams

b.21 December 1906 d.17 March 1963
MB BS Lond(1930) DMRE Cantab(1932) MD Lond(1933) MRCS LRCP(1929) MRCP(1931) FFR(1937) FRCP(1940) FRCS(1961) FRCOG(1963) Hon FCRA(1960) FFR RCSI(1962)

Rohan Williams was the son of Ernest Thomas Williams, an Admiralty civil servant, and Madge Clarke, daughter of Richard Catleugh, a merchant. He was born at Sheerness and was educated at Epsom College and St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, whence he qualified with the Cheadle gold medal for clinical medicine. At St. Mary’s he was appointed first as house physician and then as house surgeon to each of the professorial clinical units. By further junior appointments he gained special experience of diseases of the chest and nervous system. He began training in the radiology department in 1931, and in 1932 was appointed radiologist to the Willesden General Hospital. The following year he was elected to the honorary staff of St. Mary’s, and in 1935 radiologist to the Hampstead General Hospital, a post which he held until 1948. During the War he served in the Emergency Medical Service, and also, by special invitation, became consultant to Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital (1940).

Over the years this last post provided him with unique experience of the importance of X-rays in maternal and neonatal diagnosis, on which he published several papers. His contributions were recognised by his election as F.R.C.O.G, in 1963, an honour which up to this time had not been given to any diagnostic radiologist. His orderly mind, determination, patience, and unfailing courtesy made Williams a teacher and examiner of the highest class, and also a leader and administrator, not only within his specialty, but in the broader affairs of hospital politics.

At St. Mary’s he had long come to be regarded by the lay-members of the board of governors, as by his professional colleagues, as one of the most reliable planners. He would gladly undertake any task, however far removed from radiology, and would see it through to completion, undeterred by the frustration of the changing views of many committees. He was given the Röntgen award of the British Institute of Radiology in 1942, and the Katherine Bishop Harman award of the British Medical Association in 1947, and was the first Knox memorial lecturer of the Faculty of Radiologists in 1957. He was president of the British Institute of Radiology, of the radiological section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and of the section of radiology at an annual scientific meeting of the British Medical Association.

At the time of his death he was president of the Faculty of Radiologists, having previously served as vice-president, secretary, and warden, and having been largely responsible for initiating regular diploma and post-graduate courses for the Faculty at the Royal College of Surgeons, where he was Hunterian professor in 1956. He much enjoyed foreign travel, especially when it gave scope for professional activities. In 1952 he visited South-East Asia as a member of a teaching-mission organised by the World Health Organization.

In 1960 he was invited to Australia and New Zealand as Baker travelling professor, an honour which was crowned for him by his election to the honorary fellowship of the College of Radiologists of Australia. In the same year he had the unusual privilege of being the first foreigner to be invited by the Harvard Medical School to be a visiting lecturer in radiology.

He devoted the same energy and care to the pursuits of his leisure as to his work. Rejoicing in physical fitness, he continued to act as touch-judge for the St. Mary’s Rugby Football Club well into middle life. He was a tireless walker over hill and dale, and an ardent gardener. An unusually thoughtful person in his dealings with others, he was openly intolerant of only one human failing, unpunctuality. His obsessional temperament may have caused him anxiety that was not always necessary, but he never allowed his worries to become a burden to his friends.

In 1932 he married Barbara Joyce, daughter of George Symes, a civil servant. By her he had one son and one daughter.

Richard R Trail

[Ann. roy. Coll. Surg. Engl., 1963, 32, 389-92;, 1963, 1, 823-4 (p); Clin.Radiol., 1963, 14, 278-81; J. Coll. Radiol. Aust., 1964, 8, 6-8; Lancet, 1963,1, 673-4 (p); Times, 20 Mar. 1963 (p).]

(Volume V, page 450)

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