[Philipp, Elliot] Tempest, Victor

Near the Sun

  • First and only edition. A beautiful copy of this RAF memoir by Elliot Philipp (1915-2010), who later became a leading obstetricians and was a senior consultant to Edwards and Steptoe during the development of in-vitro fertilisation.

    Near the Sun is one of very few war memoirs by an RAF medical officer - the bibliographer Higham (A Guide to the Sources of British Military History) lists only two - the present volume and Air Marshall Livingstone's autobiography. Philipp's book focuses mainly on the heroism of the men and women he encountered and the experience of everyday life in the RAF. A chapter of great interest is devoted to the success of women in the services. It includes a humorous first-hand account of the aviation pioneer Amy Johnson, who effortlessly surpassed the highest standard in an important breath-endurance test and then casually said, "I don't think I want to do it any longer to-day, although I probably could". Philips also praises the bravery and stamina of the WAAF ground crews and other staff, and argues that women should be allowed to serve in whatever capacity they are most suited as individuals.

    Before the war, Philipp studied medicine at Cambridge and after graduating in the late 1930s began work on his first book, a sex guide. His publisher suggested the text be vetted by a qualified doctor, so Philipp had it checked by the only one he knew - Sigmund Freud, whose wife was a relative. "The resulting book, The Technique of Sex, written under the pseudonym Anthony Havil, quickly became a bestseller and ran to numerous editions over the next 40 years, with sales of almost a million copies" (Telegraph obituary, October 7, 2010).

    "Philipp qualified as a doctor barely a month before the outbreak of the Second World War, whereupon he joined the RAF, serving as a medical officer with Bomber Command. In 1941 he was almost certainly the last doctor to examine the aviatrix Amy Johnson – pronouncing her 'wonderfully fit' – before she drowned after bailing out in the Thames estuary. He ended the war as a squadron leader but, declining the offer of a commission, returned to the Middlesex Hospital, and then Addenbrooke's, where he had been a clinical student" (Telegraph).

    Subsequently, Philipp worked at a number of important hospitals as well as in private practice. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, did original research on blood factors, and was an early adopter of the laparoscope.

    "In 1966, at a meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine, Philipp witnessed the first meeting between Steptoe and Edwards, which led to their collaboration in the culturing of human embryos in a test tube. Shortly after this, Philipp accepted Steptoe's invitation to help found the British Fertility Society to bring together the leading experts on infertility, and thereafter he became one of Steptoe's and Edwards's closest consultants in the work to produce the world's first test tube baby" (Telegraph).

  • The Impressions of a Medical Officer of Bomber Command. With a Foreword by Sir Archibald Sinclair. Brighton: Crabtree Press, Ltd., 1946. Octavo. Original buff cloth, titles to spine and upper board in dark brown. With the dust jacket. Diagram and facsimile letter in the text. Just a little spotting along the upper edges of the text block. A superb, fresh copy in the bright and crisp jacket with only a couple of minor bumps at the top edge. Bibliography: Higham, A Guide to the Sources of British Military History.

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