Charles O. Townley, M.D. 1916-2006
BioPro was founded by Charles O. Townley, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, in 1987 in Port Huron, Michigan. The establishment of the corporation was a rather anti-climactic moment in Dr. Townley’s medical career, as by 1987 he had been designing and producing joint replacements for almost 40 years.
The fact of the matter was, to Dr. Townley, designing and manufacturing joint replacement implants was never about opening a business; it was always about helping patients return to “normal” and pain-free, comfortable lives.
Known among his friends, family, and colleagues as someone who marched to the beat of his own drummer, Dr. Townley was a tireless surgeon and medical researcher who ultimately wrote and published more than 26 scientific papers. He spoke at more than 84 clinical symposiums around the world, sharing his research and knowledge of orthopedic medicine with physicians and clinicians worldwide.
In the 1940s, as a pioneer in the field, Dr. Townley began designing implants for the toe, hand, shoulder, ankle, elbow, and hip, and knee. Some of his original designs are still used today.
The basic concept for all of his procedures was to replicate normal anatomy and his designs were calculated to transmit stress to supporting bone in a physiologic fashion. He envisioned the ideal replaced joint as “pseudobiological,” with his prosthetics serving only as an articular barrier to allow joint movement and provide pain relief.
Recognized throughout the world for his achievements in orthopedic research, Dr. Townley developed the world’s first anatomically-oriented artificial total knee in 1972, known as the Townley Anatomic Total Knee.
Dr. Townley’s 60-year career is a study in the development of modern materials, instruments, and implants. While maintaining a busy private practice in Port Huron, Michigan, he was an inveterate designer who spent much of his career-defining the anatomy, physiology, and healing of fibrous tissues in the shoulder and knee.
Early Life and Education
Charles O. Townley was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on December 30, 1916. He graduated from high school in Oak Grove, Ohio and then attended Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, on a football scholarship. He received a bachelor of arts degree in physical education and continued his education there, studying mechanical engineering and the life sciences.
He later enrolled in medical school at Ohio State University. After completing medical school in just three years, in 1944, he moved to Detroit to complete his residency at Henry Ford Hospital.
It was during his residency in Detroit that Dr. Townley first began sketching joint replacement prosthetics and discussing his ideas with renowned researchers and physicians of the time.
In 1946, Dr. Townley enrolled in the U.S. Army as a captain and was sent to Tilton Army Hospital in Fort Dicks, New Jersey, where he worked with Vincent Turco, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon who developed the Turco club foot release procedure.
It was during his time at the Army hospital, where he saw many fractures and dislocations, that Dr. Townley became practiced and accomplished in shoulder, hand, and foot surgeries, further developing his skills in tendon transfers and reconstruction.
Setting Up Practice
Upon completion of his tour of duty in the military in 1950, Dr. Townley moved his family to Port Huron, Michigan, just 50 miles north of Detroit at the southern end of Lake Huron.
It was in his private practice there that he began further exploring the complete realm of joint replacement possibilities, working tirelessly to design prosthetics that closely replicated human anatomy and with minimal bone removal. He believed strongly in, what he called, “Design by Reason.”
Surgical Theory and Practice
As medical technology advanced and new designs and manufacturing materials were developed, Dr. Townley stayed true to these original theories.
In 1960, he performed the country’s first total hip replacement.
Throughout his career, he spent countless hours conducting research on human and animal cadavers, testing both joint replacement prosthetics and also various surgical techniques and instrumentation.
Research and Development of Joint Replacement Prosthetic Materials
Dr. Townley was certain that the type of materials used for implants made the critical difference between success and failure, and he spent 40 years conducting research to identify usable materials.
Dr. Townley’s research, experimentation, and discovery led to numerous breakthroughs in identifying the various materials used most successfully for various prosthetic implants throughout the body.
Professional Recognition and Participation
Dr. Townley was a founding member and past president of The Knee Society. He was also a past president of the St. Clair County Medical Society, and he was a member of numerous medical societies and organizations including: the American Medical Association; the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; the American College of Surgeons; the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery; the Michigan State Medical Society; the International College of Surgeons; the Clinical Orthopedic Society; the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons; the Pan American Medical Association; the Academy International of Medicine; and the American Trauma Society. In 1992 he was the recipient of the Life-Time Achievement Award given annually by the Joint Implant Surgery and Research Foundation.
Over the years, he lectured at many symposiums and conferences given by many of the organizations noted above.
Upon completion of his medical residency in Detroit, Dr. Townley moved his growing family to Port Huron in 1950 and there he and his former wife raised seven children. He was very involved in community activities, particularly those involving his children.
He loved sports, was responsible for the development of Port Huron Little League Baseball and he served for many years as a coach and mentor. He served as team physician for the Port Huron Flags semi-pro hockey team and also for a number of high school sports teams. He also enjoyed playing golf and tennis.
He was an environmentalist and he lobbied the city of Port Huron to allow him to build a windmill to power the Townley Orthopedic Clinic. While in surgery, he avoided skin staples as he felt the staples, staple gun and remover were environmental clutter.
He was generous and participated in a number of charitable endeavors in the Port Huron area, as well. He continued in private practice until 2003 and he also continued to work at BioPro. At the time of his death he had several projects under development. He was posthumously awarded two patents for prosthetic designs.
At age 89, Dr. Townley died in 2006. He was survived by his children and many friends and colleagues around the world.
BioPro would like to thank Dr James Pritchett for his contributions to the above information regarding Dr Charles Townley, as well as the linked obituary and biography.