Ball, Sir Charles Bent (1851–1916), surgeon, was born 21 February 1851 in Dublin, third and youngest son among seven children of Robert Ball (qv), naturalist, and Amelia Gresley Ball (née Hellicar). He entered TCD and graduated BA (1871) with gold medal in natural science, MB, and M.Ch. (1872), was awarded a surgical travelling prize and studied in Vienna (1873), took an MD (1875) from Dublin University, and became FRCSI (1879). After practising as a surgeon (1874–81) at the Blaenavon Iron and Steel Co. in Monmouthshire, Wales, he returned to Dublin and became medical officer to the Grand Canal St. district.
In 1883 he was appointed assistant surgeon to Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, where he joined E. H. Bennett (qv), a pioneer of antiseptic surgery in Dublin. Together they brought about rapid advances in surgical practice in the hospital, which culminated in the opening of the first modern antiseptic operating theatre in Ireland (1898). A bold and skilful operator, Ball (who was surgeon at the hospital 1895–1916) became the leading surgeon in Ireland and was one of the first in Dublin to perform extensive abdominal operations. In 1887 the so-called ‘chisel case’ excited interest when a boy perforated his stomach and a large abdominal vein with a chisel. Ball performed an abdominal section, sutured up the wounds, and saved the child's life – one of the earliest cases in Dublin where a lesion of the alimentary canal was successfully sutured. J. M. Synge (qv), who suffered from Hodgkin's disease, was one of his patients.
Ball distinguished himself as a specialist in rectal diseases and wrote The rectum and anus: their diseases and treatment (1887; 2nd ed. 1894) and The rectum: its diseases and developmental effects (1908); he contributed articles to professional journals and the ‘Rectum’ article in F. Treves's System of surgery (1895). Rectal valves became eponymously known as ‘Ball's valves’. Well known abroad, he was invited as Lane lecturer to San Francisco (1902) and as Erasmus Wilson lecturer to the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1903). In Dublin he served as consulting surgeon to many institutions including the Steevens', Monkstown, and Orthopaedic hospitals, and during the first world war as a lieutenant-colonel in the RAMC (1914) and consulting surgeon for troops in Ireland.
Appointed university anatomist (1895) and regius professor of surgery (1895–1916) at TCD, he represented the college on the general medical council (1906–16). An hononary surgeon to the king in Ireland, he received a knighthood (1903) and a baronetcy (1911). Other honours included the presidency of the Dublin University Biological Association (1886), of the surgical section of the BMA (1905), and of RAMI (1909–12), membership of the RCSI council, and hon. fellowship (1900) of the Royal College of Surgeons (England). Learned in all branches of natural science and a keen field botanist, he was elected president of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland (1911–16). He held many public posts, including commissioner of national education, medical referee under the workmen's compensation act, and member of the advisory board for the army medical service.
The astronomer Sir Robert Stawell Ball (qv) and the geologist Valentine Ball (qv) were his brothers. Ball died 17 March 1916 at his home, 24 Merrion Sq., Dublin. He married (23 July 1874) Annie Julia Kinahan; they had three sons and four daughters. Their eldest son, Charles Arthur Kinahan Ball (1877–1945), MD, FRCSI, was surgeon at Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital and regius professor of surgery at TCD, and succeeded his father as baronet (1916); Nigel Gresley Ball (1892–1978), botanist, lectured at TCD, University College, Colombo, Ceylon, [Sri Lanka], and King's College, London, and succeeded his brother in the title (1945).