Sir Victor Ewings Negus (18871974), by Elliott & Fry, 1956
Negus, Sir Victor Ewings (18871974), laryngologist, was born on 6 February 1887 in Tooting, London, the third son of a solicitor, William Negus (d. 1924/5), lieutenant for the county of Surrey, and his wife, Emily, née Ewings (d. 1939). Educated at King's College School and King's College, he entered King's College Hospital in 1909 with a Sambrooke exhibition and qualified MRCS, LRCP in 1912. Earlier in 1912 he had been usher in Westminster Abbey at the funeral of Lord Lister. Influenced as a student by St Clair Thomson, the renowned otorhinolaryngologist, he completed his house appointments at the old King's College Hospital in the Strand and, no doubt on St Clair Thomson's recommendation, became a clinical assistant to Charles Hope and Lionel Colledge at the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat, Golden Square. At the outbreak of the First World War he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and saw action as a regimental medical officer to a machine-gun battalion in the first battle of Ypres. This left him with tinnitus throughout his life. He was posted with the 3rd Lahore division to Mesopotamia in 1916, and was awarded the Mons star, and mentioned in dispatches.
Negus graduated MB BS (London) in 1921 and a year later gained the FRCS and became house surgeon at the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat. His developing interest in laryngology was enhanced by study with Emil-Jean Moure in Bordeaux, and Chevalier Jackson in Philadelphia, before he joined St Clair Thomson's department at King's College Hospital as clinical assistant. Here, with the collaboration of a Mr Schranz, of the Genito-Urinary Company in London, he redesigned Chevalier Jackson's endoscopes and tracheostomy tubes. Negus's instruments have since been in use throughout the world.
Negus's work on the evolution, development, and comparative anatomy of the larynx won him in 1924 the gold medal in the MS examination of the University of London, and the John Hunter medal for 19257. It was published in 1929 as Mechanisms of the Larynx. He was appointed junior surgeon at King's in 1924, surgeon in 1931, senior surgeon in 1940, and consulting surgeon in 1946. At the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) he was Arris and Gale lecturer in 1924 and Hunterian professor in 1925, was co-opted as a member of council to represent otorhinolaryngology in 1947, and was a member of the court of examiners and one of the first examiners in the special fellowship in otorhinolaryngology. A president of the Listerian Society from 1939 to 1941, he was awarded the Lister medal in 1954. Negus was granted the fellowship of King's College in 1945 at the conclusion of the Second World War, during which he served in the Emergency Medical Service at Horton Hospital, Epsom. A member of numerous otolaryngological societies at home and overseas, Negus was elected president of the Thoracic Society (194950), of the section of laryngology of the Royal Society of Medicine (1942), and of the British Association of Otorhinolaryngologists (1951). He presided over the International Congress of Otolaryngology in 1949 and the 1954 annual meeting of the Collegium Oto-rhino-laryngologicum Amicitiae Sacrum, both held in London. He served as honorary treasurer of the collegium for 20 years. He was an honorary FRCS of Edinburgh and of Ireland. Negus was knighted in 1956.
His early interest in the larynx was later developed by Negus into an interest in the function of the nose in olfaction and respiration. This work was stimulated by the retrieval of elements of the Onodi collection, held in the Hunterian Museum of the RCS, which had been largely destroyed by bombing in 1941. Adolf Onodi of Budapest demonstrated his anatomical preparations of the accessory sinuses to a meeting of the Society of Hungarian Ear and Throat Specialists in 1900. These were later acquired by the RCS and were classified by Thomas (Tubby) Layton of Guy's Hospital in 1934. Negus not only sought to replace the human collection but also added a comparative animal collection. The results of this work, which was largely undertaken while he was at the Ferens Institute of the Middlesex Hospital (195262), were published in 1958 in his book Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of the Nose and Paranasal Sinuses. The Biology of Respiration appeared in 1965. In addition to his research books Negus joined his mentor Sir St Clair Thomson in producing the fourth edition of his Diseases of the Nose and Throat, published in 1937. Thomson died before the publication of the fifth edition in 1948, but his contribution was fully acknowledged by Negus, who published the sixth edition alone in 1955. This book, which is still used for reference, was Negus's major literary contribution to clinical medicine.
On leaving the council of the RCS in 1954 Negus became involved as a trustee of the Hunterian collection; later catalogues of the surviving Hunterian specimens were published under his chairmanship. He also wrote The History of the Hunterian Trustees (1965) and The Artistic Possessions at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1967). For this work and for his distinction in laryngology Negus was awarded the honorary gold medal of the RCS in 1969.
Negus was no less energetic when not at work. He played tennis to the age of seventy and in winter he regularly played golf against the staff and students at King's and later at the Middlesex Hospital. He loved to contribute scripts in doggerel verse for the medical students' Christmas shows. He was hardly ever beaten at billiards and had a passion for salmon fishing. In 1939 he moved to Haslemere, Surrey, where he enjoyed gardening and in particular felling trees. In the early 1950s he, as was fashionable among surgeons at the time, acquired a farm. It progressively became too much for him and he gradually reduced his commitments, spending his last years in a flat in Hindhead.
Negus was a friend and adviser to his young assistants. His advice was carefully considered and reliable in the long term, although not everybody realized it at the time, and some thought it unprogressive. He was keen that his trainees should earn their apprenticeship, as he believed that the harder path would in the end achieve a fuller life and greater satisfaction. He was naturally rather gloomy and did not suffer fools gladly. He was very much a teaching hospital man. This exterior, however, concealed kindness and a droll sense of humour.
On 14 January 1929 Negus married Winifred Adelaide Gladys
, daughter of Robert Rennie, an engineer. She accompanied him throughout the world and illustrated his many books. They had two sons, one of whom, David, became a consultant surgeon. Negus died at his home, 4 Nutcombe Height, Hindhead, Surrey, on 15 July 1974. His body was cremated at Guildford crematorium on 18 July.
E. H. Cornelius and S. F. Taylor, Lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 19741982 (1988) · The Times (17 July 1974) · BMJ (27 July 1974) · The Lancet (27 July 1974), 2345 · private information (2004) · m. cert. · d. cert. · WWW · Medical Directory (1962)
RCS Eng., memoirs, mainly of First World War
Elliott & Fry, photograph, 1956, NPG [see illus.] · C. G. Fletcher, photograph, 1965 · A. John, pastel sketch, priv. coll.
Wealth at death
£5756: probate, 4 Sept 1974, CGPLA Eng. & Wales