Dr. Charles Joseph Singer

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Charles Joseph Singer

Birthdate: (83)
Birthplace: Paddington, London, England
Death: June 10, 1960 (83)
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev Simeon Singer and Charlotte Singer
Husband of Dorothea Singer
Brother of Fredericka (Freda) Abrahams; Julius Singer; Samuel Alexander Singer; David Jacob Singer and Richard Arnold Singer

Managed by: Ofir Friedman
Last Updated:

About Dr. Charles Joseph Singer


Charles Joseph Singer (2 November 1876 - 10 June 1960) was a British historian of science, technology, and medicine.

Singer was born in Camberwell in London, where his father Simeon Singer was a minister and Hebraist. He was educated at City of London School, University College London, and Magdalen College, Oxford (Zoology 1896-99, Honorary Fellow 1953). Trained in zoology and medicine, he qualified for medical practice in 1903. On the day when his medical qualification was announced he was appointed medical officer on an expedition led by Sir John Harrington to the border region between Abyssinia and Sudan. He returned to England and took a position at Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, and in 1907 left for Singapore. Forced to return to England on his father's death in 1908, he held positions at various hospitals in London until he moved to Oxford in 1914 to work with Sir William Osler (first Baronet), then Regius Professor of Medicine at the university.

Singer was married in July 1910 to Dorothea Waley Cohen, distinguished in her own right as an historian of the Medieval period. She provided valuable assistance in his publications for the remainder of his life. In the period leading up to World War I, Singer published several monographs, for which he was awarded the D.Litt. degree by Oxford. Singer accepted a commission as medical officer in the British Army in 1916, first as a pathologist and then as part of an archeological expedition. At war's end, he returned to Oxford to lecture on the history of biology. In 1920 he was appointed to a lectureship in the history of medicine at University College of the University of London. His reputation extended beyond England, and in 1929 he accepted an invitation to lecture at Johns Hopkins University to be conducted the following year. Johns Hopkins was also interested in offering him a permanent post, but their delay allowed the University of London to award him an honorary chair, which he accepted. By the time Johns Hopkins made their formal offer, he was satisfied with his position in London and declined their offer. The Singers spent time in Berkeley where Charles spent three months as a visiting lecturer at the University of California, after which they returned home to London. He was invited again by the University of California at Berkeley to lecture in 1932, an occasion that the Singers used to circle the globe going westward, spending about sixteen months away from England. On their return, Singer resumed his post at UCL, where he remained until his retirement in 1942. His last great publication before retirement was A Short History of Scientific Ideas to 1900.

Retirement was not idle for the Singers. Charles continued research into various topics and published several noteworthy books, including editing the monumental A History of Technology, which was released in five volumes between 1954 and 1958, Galen on Anatomical Procedures, and A History of Biology. Numerous articles were also published in this period, some of which remain important. He died in Par, Cornwall.

Charles Singer's life was complemented by numerous awards, honors, and positions of leadership. Among these were an honorary degree (D.Sc.) from Oxford, the Sarton Medal from the History of Science Society, and terms of presidency of several societies, including the British Society of the History of Medicine (1946-1948) and the International Union for the History of Science (1947).


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Dr. Charles Joseph Singer's Timeline

November 2, 1876
Paddington, London, England
June 10, 1960
Age 83