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October 1966

Sir Felix Semon

Arch Otolaryngol. 1966;84(4):473-478. doi:10.1001/archotol.1966.00760030475022

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THE SEMON Lecture at the University of London is a great tradition in laryngology, and to be chosen as lecturer is considered one of the highest honors. This annual commemoration of one of the most outstanding laryngologists of all time, Sir Felix Semon, was made possible by a large amount of money subscribed by friends and admirers of Semon who founded this lectureship when he gave up his practice in 1909 (Fig 1 and 2). Sir Henry Butlin was president of Semon's farewell banquet, a gathering of more than 250 persons; such a ceremony had never been accorded a member of the medical profession and marked the culmination of a fantastic career.

Felix was born Dec 8, 1849, in Danzig, the eldest son of the merchant Simon Joseph Semon. When Felix was 3 years old the family went to Berlin where at first they were prosperous. His mother, Henrietta Aschenheim, was especially energetic and eager to make an impression on the world. In his youth Felix was greatly influenced by the "good families" who formed the elite of the Jewish society in Berlin. It is evident that Felix inherited much of his mother's temperament, including her leaning toward society.

Felix had many talents, among them writing, and a good taste for literature. His favorite writers were the German classics and Scott and Byron, and his favorite composers were Schumann, Chopin, and Schubert, revealing a tendency toward romanticism. He had so much talent in music that further study of it was considered. He chose medicine for practical reasons, but during his entire life music occupied much of his time. He wrote several compositions. During the French-German war of 18701871 he was in France with the Prussian Uhlan Guards. When his regiment entered Berlin in triumph at the end of the war, they played the St. Quentin March, composed by Semon.

The war interrupted his medical studies, which he started in Heidelberg in 1868 and finished in Berlin in 1874. Two teachers had a great influence on his later life. First was the famous pathologist Rudolph Virchow, with whom Semon was closely related. Virchow taught him to always envisage the intimate connection of any specialty with general medicine, a point of view well main

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