Felix Semon was born at Danzig, the elder son of Simon Joseph Semon, stockbroker, of Berlin, and his wife Henriette Aschenheim of Elbing, Prussia. He received his medical education at Heidelberg and Berlin, his studies being interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War, in which he served as a volunteer in the 2nd Uhlans. He graduated in 1873 and obtained the German States Diploma in the following year, completing his training with visits to Paris, Vienna and London, at a time when the laryngoscope was coming into use. In London he remained, to become in 1875 clinical assistant, and two years later physician, to the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat, Golden Square. His ability was quickly recognised and he decided to make his home in England permanently. From 1882 to 1897 he had charge of the throat department of St. Thomas’s Hospital, as assistant physician till 1891 and thereafter as a full physician. He was also laryngologist to the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic after 1888, in which capacity he carried out, with Victor Horsley, researches on the central motor innervation of the larynx. Semon was one of the first to insist on the importance of vocal rest in the treatment of laryngeal tuberculosis. As an operator on the larynx, he was brilliant, and his observations on the early diagnosis of malignant growths in this region were to save many lives. He assisted in the foundation of the Laryngological Society of London in 1893 and was its president from 1894 to 1896.
Semon acquired a huge practice and his success was marked by a knighthood in 1897 and his appointment as Physician-Extraordinary to Edward VII in 1901. He was created C.V.O. in 1902 and K.C.V.O. three years later. The Kaiser conferred the title of Royal Prussian Professor on him in 1894, and he received numerous honours from learned societies abroad. Outside his profession, Semon had many interests. He was a fine pianist and a composer, a fearless horseman and a sportsman devoted to shooting, fishing and hunting. Although quick-tempered, he was a loyal and generous colleague and friend. He retired in 1911, at the height of his career, to his country house at Great Missenden, where he died. He married in 1879 Louise Dorette Augusta, daughter of Heinrich Redeker, a furniture dealer, of Oldenberg, and had three sons, one of whom is H. C. G. Semon, F.R.C.P.
G H Brown
[Lancet, 1921; B.M.J., 1921; Parsons, iii, 226; D.N.B., 1912-21, 491; Sir F. Semon, Autobiography, 1926]