Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/West, Charles (1816-1898)

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WEST, CHARLES (1816–1898), physician, son of a baptist minister, was born in London on 8 Aug. 1816. His father kept a school, in which he was educated, and in 1833 he entered as a medical student at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. After two years he went for a year to Bonn, and completed his medical studies at Paris and Berlin, graduating M.D. at the latter university in September 1837. He then began general practice in London, and wrote a paper on typhus fever in the ‘Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal’ for April 1838. But, wishing to enlarge his knowledge, he went to study midwifery in Dublin, and on his return became a member of the Royal College of Physicians, and was elected physician to the Infirmary for Children near Waterloo Bridge, London. He practised midwifery and wrote numerous papers, chiefly on diseases of children. In 1845 he became lecturer on midwifery to the Middlesex Hospital, and in 1847 gave a course of ‘Lectures on Diseases of Infancy and Childhood,’ published in 1848. The volume went through seven editions, and was translated into several European languages; it was the most elaborate work which had appeared on the subject in English, though less full than the famous French treatise of Rilliet and Barthez, on which it was based. It did much service in exciting general interest in the subject. He was appointed lecturer on midwifery at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1848, and held office for twelve years. His lectures were good, and their substance is contained in ‘Lectures on Diseases of Women,’ published in 1856 and in three later editions. In 1852, largely owing to his exertions, the Hospital for Sick Children was opened in Richard Mead's house in Great Ormond Street, London [see Mead, Richard], and he became its senior physician, an office which he held for twenty-three years. He was much consulted on the diseases of women and children till 1880, when his health obliged him to go to Nice for the winter. In the College of Physicians he was elected a fellow in 1848, became censor in 1870 and 1882, delivered the Croomian lectures ‘On Ulceration of the Os Uteri,’ the Lumleian lectures ‘On Some Disorders of the Nervous System in Childhood’ in 1871, and the Harveian oration in 1874. He died in Paris, on his way back from Nice, on 19 March 1898. He knew several languages, and was a man of ability; but the conduct of other men so rarely satisfied him that he was not a happy colleague, and left both St. Bartholomew's and the Children's Hospital in a state of feud with the other members of the staff. About twenty years before his death he became a Roman catholic.

West was twice married: first, to Miss Cartwright, and secondly to Miss Flon, who survived him. By his first wife he left one son and one daughter.

[Works; obituary notice in British Medical Journal for 2 April 1898; personal knowledge. For a complete list of his writings see the ‘Catalogue’ of the Surgeon-General's Library at Washington.]

N. M.