John Charnley/William Waugh Collection

Scope and Content

The material in this collection was collated between 1987-1989 during the research and production of the biography of John Charnley by William Waugh: John Charnley: the man and the hip.

The correspondence includes a series of letters produced by Charnley in his professional capacity, and a small collection of personal correspondence. The majority of the correspondence is exchanged with the companies with whom Charnley collaborated in the course of his work, including Chas. Thackray Ltd, James Howorth and Co. and CMW Laboratories Ltd. This material was provided to Waugh in the course of his research. There is also a series of correspondence produced by Waugh during the research for and production of the biography.

The publications in the collection include papers and articles produced by Charnley over the course of his career, alongside a publication index. There are papers, notes and draft chapters produced by Waugh, and a small collections of booklets, mostly relating to Charnley’s prostheses, and the work of the John Charnley Trust. There is also a series of photographs of Charnley sent to Waugh for inclusion in the biography.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Charnley, orthopaedic surgeon, born in 1911, was educated at Bury Grammar School and the Medical School of the Victoria University of Manchester. In 1937, he took up his first post as a resident surgical officer at Salford Royal Hospital, and demonstrated an early talent for making and developing specialist apparatus and equipment. In order to gain experience in laboratory research, Charnley took a post as demonstrator in physiology at King’s College in 1938, but returned to Manchester in 1939 to take up the post of resident casualty officer at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he first encountered work in orthopaedics and fractures.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Charnley enlisted as a lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was posted to Dover, where he was part of the evacuation support for British troops at Dunkirk. He was then posted to Egypt as a surgical team officer, and later worked at an Orthopaedic Centre near Cairo, applying to become an orthopaedic specialist in 1942. Charnley was promoted to Temporary Major, and gained valuable orthopaedic experience during the war, continuing to design and make new splints and instruments.

Charnley returned to Manchester in 1946, following his demobilisation, and work under Sir Harry Platt at the Manchester Royal Infirmary as an honorary assistant orthopaedic surgeon and lecturer in orthopaedic surgery, and later as a consultant. In 1949, Charnley became a visiting orthopaedic surgeon at Wrightington Hospital. He began to work on the mobility of the hip in painful hip conditions due to arthritis. His discoveries in this field were made possible by his outstanding ability in engineering, and in working with materials.

In 1961, Charnley established the Centre for Hip Surgery at Wrightington Hospital, where he pioneered and developed prostheses for hip replacement surgery, and studied the acceptance of artificial materials within bone and joint tissues. He was minutely involved in the production and testing of the prosthesis, the materials used, and in inventing the supporting instruments and apparatus required for the operation. The prostheses and equipment were developed by Charnley in a close and long lasting relationship with Chas. Thackray Ltd., manufacturers of surgical instruments. Charnley is also responsible for the design of sterile operating enclosures to reduce the risk of infection, working closely with James Howorth and Co., a specialist company in air filtration. The hip replacement operation is now one of the most common operations performed in the UK.

The publication of Charnley’s work led to visits by orthopaedic surgeons from around the world, who came to undertake training by Charnley at the Centre for Hip Surgery. Charnley published prolifically throughout his career, on a variety of orthopaedic subjects between 1945 and 1960. His book, The Closed Treatment of Common Fractures, published in 1950, would become very influential. From 1960 onwards, his publications focus almost solely on the arthroplasty of the hip.

Charnley held honorary appointments at the Universities in Manchester, and received, among many other honours, an honorary fellowship of the British Orthopaedic Association (1981) and the Lister medal of the Royal College of Surgeons (1975). He was appointed CBE in 1970 and became the first orthopaedic fellow of the Royal Society in 1975. In 1972 Manchester University recognized their outstanding graduate by making him professor of orthopaedic surgery, a post he held until 1976. The citizens of Bury made him a freeman of the borough in 1974, and he was knighted in 1977. Charnley continued to work and give lectures worldwide until his death in 1982.

William Waugh, orthopaedic surgeon, born in 1922, was educated at Eastbourne College, Pembroke College, Cambridge and King’s College Hospital Medical School. He worked first at King’s College, and then as a surgical specialist for the RAF.

He returned to King's College in 1950 as an orthopaedic registrar and later a senior registrar. From 1955 to 1957 he was first assistant in the Nuffield department of orthopaedic surgery at Oxford, and from 1957 to 1977 a consultant surgeon at Harlow Wood Orthopaedic Hospital and Nottingham General Hospital, also serving as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. From 1977 to 1984, he held the post of Professor of Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery at Nottingham University Medical School.

Waugh’s area of specialism was arthritis of the knee joint, and following his retirement in 1984, he wrote several books; John Charnley: the man and the hip; A history of the British Orthopaedic Association, the first 75 years and also edited the fourth edition of The whiskies of Scotland.


Arrnaged into the following series:

  • 1. Correspondence
  • 2. Publications
  • 3. Papers and Notes
  • 4. Booklets
  • 5. Photographs

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Appraisal Information

No appraisal or destruction has been undertaken.

Custodial History

The papers were collected by William Waugh for his biography of Charnley. The Charnley family provided Waugh with Charnley's papers to assist him in this project. Professor Waugh donated all of these papers to the Library in 1990.


No accruals to this collection are expected.


John Charnley: the man and the hip(London, New York, Springer-Verlag, 1990).

‘Charnley, John’ (1911-1982), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

‘Waugh, William’ (1922-1998) Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows Online, Royal College of Surgeons ( accessed 21 Jun 2018).

Julie Anderson, Francis Neary, and John Pickstone, Surgeons, manufacturers and patients: a transatlantic history of the hip (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2007); this study used the Waugh/Charnley papers.

Geographical Names