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Biographical entry Taylor, Robert Murray Ross (1932 - 2003)

CBE 1997; MRCS and FRCS 1965; MB ChB Glasgow 1956; ChM 1968; DRCOG 1960; FRCS Edinburgh 1964.

10 December 1932
Calcutta, India
24 October 2003
Transplant surgeon


Ross Taylor was a consultant surgeon, director of the transplantation unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, and a pioneer of kidney transplantation. He was born in Calcutta, India, on 10 December 1932, the son of George Ross, a medical practitioner, and Helen Baillie Murray. The family had a strong medical tradition: a grandfather and three uncles were also doctors. Ross was educated at Coatbridge Secondary School, Lanarkshire, and the University of Glasgow.

After house officer posts in Ballochmyle Hospital and Kilmarnock Infirmary, he served for two years in the Parachute Regiment in Cyprus and Jordan, treasuring his red beret for the rest of his life.

On demobilisation, he trained in surgery in Bishop Auckland. He was part of the team in Newcastle that did their first transplant in 1967. He was appointed as a consultant at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, in 1970, and remained in the north east until 1995. He was also a visiting consultant surgeon at Berwick Infirmary.

Although he did not limit himself to transplant surgery, also performing a range of other operations, it was in the field of transplantation that Ross distinguished himself. He personally performed more than 2,000 transplants, including four in one period of 24 hours. He was President of the British Transplantation Society from 1986 to 1989, of the North of England Surgical Society from 1990 to 1991, the UK Transplant Multi-Organ Sharing Group from 1987 to 1990, and was Chairman of the British Transplantation Society Transplant training committee from 1986 to 1993.

He campaigned hard for a policy of legislation for ‘required request’, which would oblige emergency room doctors to broach the sensitive subject of organ donation to grieving families. He was also involved in drafting the Human Organ Transplant Act, which made commercialisation of human tissue illegal.

He took an active part in fundraising, for which he ran four marathons and ran the Great North Run no less than 13 times, raising more than £500,000 from these activities. He was Chairman of the Transplant Games for 15 years, and chaired the Transplant Patients Trust, which seeks to support families in financial hardship as a result of renal failure, for which he was appointed CBE in 1997.

As a trainer, he was patient and encouraging, and many of his research fellows went on to win Hunterian professorships and other surgical prizes. Five of his trainees went on to lead major transplant centres in the UK.

Ross had a passion for sports, especially tennis, golf and cricket, and loved the music, from Gilbert and Sullivan to jazz. He died on 24 October 2003, and is survived by his wife Margaret née Cutland, whom he married in 1959, and four children, Linda, Jill, Bill and Anne, who is a medical practitioner.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2004 328 646, with portrait; The Daily Telegraph 8 December 2003, with portrait.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England