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News > Alumni News > Sir John Charnley 1911-1982 (Class of 1929)

Sir John Charnley 1911-1982 (Class of 1929)

BGS Fact ~ Did you Know? The artificial hip replacement which has transformed millions of lives worldwide and made its creator Sir John Charnley an international legend is 60 years old this year ...
2 Dec 2022
United Kingdom
Alumni News

Sir John Charnley 1911 – 1982 an Old Boy from the Class of 1929 became an orthopaedic surgeon who was responsible for the development of one of the most important medical technologies of the 1900s. 


Professor Charnley’s work and sheer dedicated genius catapulted the then small Wrightington Hospital in Wigan onto the world stage as an international centre of excellence. 

But the hip replacement as we know it was almost never made as Charnley’s search for the right design and suitable materials foundered several times before being successful. 

Now, the Trust created in his name to fund research, education and training into orthopaedics is celebrating the remarkable man and his pioneering, influential work.  

And the hospital where Charnley and his team created and carried out hip replacements has continued to push forward surgical barriers, investing in AI and remaining at the forefront of innovation and research with developments in orthopaedic surgery. 

Wrightington Hospital is a centre of excellence for all types of joint replacement carried out in 2022. 

In 1962, the number of hip replacements there was 265, carried out in just one operating theatre. In 2022, that figure is already over 3,500 in 10 operating theatres providing joint replacements including knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.  

Prior to the Covid pandemic, 250,000 hip and knee replacements were carried out each year in England and Wales. 

Charnley was already a ground-breaking, Manchester-based consultant in the field of trauma and fractures when one day he examined a patient who had been fitted with a replacement hip joint made from acrylic plastic. 

The hip squeaked so loudly that the man’s wife avoided being in the same room with him.  

Intrigued by the problem, Charnley put all his efforts into creating a better hip joint replacement, one that moved easily and successfully. After several failures, he designed a two-component joint made of metal and plastic that provided the blueprint for all others since. 

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Martyn Porter, chair of the Sir John Charnley Trust, stated: “Charnley was simply a genius – immensely skilled, totally determined and very organised. 

“He revolutionised his field with one of the greatest surgical innovations of the century and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.” 

This article was written with the help of J.C. Faux FRCS Orthopaedic Surgeon, (a former Wrightington Registrar and Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon) and The John Charnley Trust. 






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