Sir Felix Semon’s retirement in 1909 was a highly renowned affair, which culminated in him being bestowed the funds to secure his lasting legacy. At Semon’s retirement banquet, Sir Henry Butlin praised him for his lifetime’s work “in defence of the rights of Laryngology throughout the world” and presented him with the funds necessary to endow a lectureship in his name at the University of London, which later became known as the Semon Lectureship for Laryngology (Semon, Semon & McIntyre, 1926:292). These funds totalled £1200 and were gathered by Lady Mond, the wife of Alfred Moritz Mond MP, from friends and subscriptions from past papers (Harrison, 2000:174). The funds were granted to Semon in the form of a leather-bound volume that contained the names of those that contributed and also a piece on the purpose of the fund (Harrison, 2000:174).
In December 1910, Semon wrote to the Academic Registrar at the University of London in the hope of establishing a lectureship in his name. He explained that upon his retirement he had been presented with a large fund of money with the explicit purpose of creating an annual lectureship that would help to further scientific progress within laryngology. He also included information about a few statutes that he felt were important to govern this lectureship as well as the necessity for a medal to be presented to each of the lecturers that would form their honorarium and cost about £150 (Harrison, 2000:175-176).
The University of London later accepted Semon’s proposal and the University of London Semon Lecture Trust was established in 1912 (Harrison, 2000:174), with the first lecture being delivered in 1913 by Peter McBride on “Sir Felix Semon – His Work and its Influence on Laryngology” in two parts (McBride, 1913). This was the first and only lecture delivered at the University of London as, due to space issues and room requirements, the lectureship then moved to the Royal Society of Medicine, where it remains today.
In the deeds of the trust, it is detailed that “The Lecturer shall be appointed from amongst those persons who in the opinion of the Board at the time of such appointment have advanced within recent years the Science and Practice of Laryngology or Rhinology particularly in relation to general Medical Science either by original research or clinical work or anatomical pathological or bacteriological work or by work relating to the history of Laryngology or Rhinology” (UoL CF 1/18/1328). This deed extends on an international scale and has ensured that from the start laryngology has been placed “on an equal platform with other departments of medicine and surgery which are similarly endowed” (Turner, 1923), as it continues to attract lecturers that are at the top of their field from around the world. It is no wonder that for many of those within the specialty, delivering this lecture remains one of the highlights of their career and indeed the “Semon Lecture remains to this day the ‘blue ribbon’ of world laryngology” (Harrison, 2000:181).
Harrison, D. 2000. Felix Semon 1849-1921: A Victorian Laryngologist. London: The Royal Society of Medicine Press.
McBride, P. 1913. Sir Felix Semon – His Work and its Influence on Laryngology. The Journal of Laryngology, Rhinology and Otology. 28: 113-129.
Semon, F. & Semon, H. & McIntyre, T. 1926. The Autobiography of Sir Felix Semon. London: Jarrolds Limited.
Turner, A. 1924. The Advancement of Laryngology and Otology: A Plea for Adequate Training and Closer Co-operative Action. The Journal of Laryngology and Otology. 38: 621-641.
University of London Senate House Archives: CF 1/18/1328: The Semon Lecture Trust Deeds that detail the various laws ruling the lecture series.