Fantastic Finds for Friday: Bethel Solomons’ Hat!

Bethel Solomons (1885-1965) was born in Dublin and spent most of his professional life there. As Master of the Rotunda Hospital, he organised the first sterility clinic in Dublin, and was a founder fellow of this College and an honorary fellow of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He was elected President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1946. He was also an international rugby player, playing for Ireland, and a supporter of the 1916 Rising.

A small collection of papers held in the College Archive was donated to the RCOG by Michael Solomons in 1990, the son of Bethel and a renowned gynaecologist himself. These papers consist of correspondence with many of the great medics of the earlier 20th century, including Comyns Berkeley, Victor Bonney and William Blair-Bell discussing gynaecological issues and are a fascinating insight into the developments which were in progress during that time. It isn’t all serious talk though, as the reproductions below will show!

In September 1931, Solomons sent the letter below to the British Medical Journal, entering the debate about the delivery and management of breech presentations.

S5/3 Solomons' letter
Copyright of the estate of Bethel Solomons
S5/3 Spencers' letter
Copyright of the estate of Herbert Spencer

Solomons’ point about finding out the ‘size of the husband’s hat’ to assess management of a breach delivery was instantly taken up by Herbert Spencer (1860-1941), a fellow obstetrician and gynaecologist in London, who sent the amusing letter right. Spencer writes ‘…are you talking through your hat? At least, I think you should point out that it is the brim of the pelvis, not of the hat, which is important. For supposing the father wore such as I once saw you wearing, I fear that the student, when he came to practice, would resort to unnecessary operations…’

We have no record of Solomons’ reply!

Penny Hutchins, Archivist

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