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Biographical entry Howkins, John (1907 - 2003)

MRCS 1932; FRCS 1936; MB BS London 1933; MS 1936; MD 1937; LRCP 1932; MRCOG 1937; FRCOG 1948.

17 December 1907
Hartlepool, UK
6 May 2003


John Howkins was a gynaecological surgeon at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. He was born in Hartlepool, County Durham, on 17 December 1907, the son of John Drysdale Howkins, a civil engineer, and Helen Louise née Greenwood, the daughter of a bank manager. He was educated at Cargilfield Preparatory School and was then a scholar at Shrewsbury, where he was a prefect, and developed a lifelong interest in fast cars. This led to a temporary set-back: he was spotted driving a girl in his Frazer-Nash, reported to the headmaster, and expelled. This did not prevent him winning an arts entrance scholarship to the Middlesex Hospital, where he fell under the spell of Victor Bonney.

After qualifying, he did junior jobs at the Middlesex and the Chelsea Hospital for Women, and then became resident assistant physician-accoucheur at Bart’s. He also gained his masters in surgery, his MD (with a gold medal) and his FRCS.

At the outbreak of war he joined the RAF, rising to Wing-Commander and senior surgical specialist, eventually becoming deputy chief consultant to the WAAF.

At the end of the war he returned to Bart’s, where a post was created for him. He was subsequently appointed to the Hampstead General and the Royal Masonic Hospitals.

He was a prolific writer, talking over Bonney’s Textbook of gynaecology as well as Shaw’s textbooks of Gynaecology and Operative gynaecology. He was Hunterian Professor of the College in 1947 and was awarded the Meredith Fletcher Shaw memorial lectureship of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1975.

Small in stature, he was an accomplished skier, and chairman of the Ski Club of Great Britain, and had a memorable sense of humour. He enjoyed salmon fishing and renovating old houses. In retirement he took up sheep farming in Wales. He married Lena Brown in 1940. They had one son and two daughters. He died on 6 May 2003.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Barts and the London Chronicle 2003: 5, 46-7].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England