Skip to main content

Historic Hospital Admission Records Project

Sir Charles Alfred Ballance (1856–1936)

Charles Ballance was born at Taunton in 1856, and was educated in Germany before going to St. Thomas’s Hospital, where he attained a first class MB. His long career with St. Thomas’s began with his appointment as an aural surgeon, and his association with radical mastoid surgery lasted throughout his professional life. He held posts at various other hospitals, including the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic, in Queen Square. He attained the rank of colonel in the Army Medical Service in Malta, and he was principal surgeon to the Metropolitan Police for fourteen years. His distinguished career and public appointments brought him a KCMG in 1918.

An advocate of vivisection, his publications advanced the knowledge of scar tissue formation, and his pioneering surgical work on the brain was recognised as crucial in the development of neurosurgery as a distinct field.

Dr John Poynton recalled him;

“Sir Charles Ballance; had the biggest head I think I have ever seen. He was from St. Thomas’s. An investigator and especially a cerebral surgeon. He had a “collective security” surgeon here and at St. Thomas’s and Queen’s Square. It was difficult to know where he was. Pompous, but intelligent. Not a striking surgeon with his hands, but always intent on advancing the Art. Did much work on the mastoid and ear disease. He was big, with strong features, greatly devoted to his own family who were all able. Otherwise not lovable to the outsider. Very sure of his own value in the Great War he became covered with medals and orders and such-like. Very widely known. He remained an investigator almost to the end of his long life, but as is often the case he died lonely, bound up in his achievements and not attracted by those of others. There was no doubt that he was a man of great parts, and earnest in the advance of surgery. I was his House Surgeon.”