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Biographical entry Morrison, Andrew William (1925 - 2006)

MRCS and FRCS 1957; MB ChB Glasgow 1948; DLO 1953.

3 December 1925
Huelva, Spain
6 January 2006


Andrew Morrison was born on 3 December 1925 in Huelva, southern Spain, where his father, William Andrew Morrison, was a mining engineer. His mother was Violet Mary née Common, the daughter of a dentist. The family returned to Scotland and Andrew attended Stirling High School, where he excelled both academically and in athletics, being victor ludorum several years running. He went on to study medicine at the University of Glasgow.

After qualifying in 1948 he was a house surgeon at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, living in on the surgical ward for six months with only two weekends off, but he could watch the ships leaving port from the hospital window. He joined the Merchant Navy as a ship’s medical officer and sailed to South Africa and the Far East. On one occasion he performed an emergency lower-limb amputation on the deck of the ship when a member of the crew had been crushed by heavy equipment, not only operating but giving his anaesthetic.

He did his National Service in the RAMC and was posted to Lubbecke, where he met Maureen Rawlings who was serving in the Control Commission, and they married in December 1950.

On demobilisation he specialised in otolaryngology, and did a series of registrar posts in Carlisle and at the London Hospital, becoming senior registrar in 1956. He was appointed as a consultant to Whipps Cross in 1959 and to the London in 1964. Later he became a consultant at the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital, where he worked from 1965 to 1979 as a lecturer at the University of London.

It was a time when the surgery of the ear was evolving exponentially, thanks to precise high-speed drills and the operating microscope. Andrew became one of the exponents of this, thanks to his precise surgical skill. He was a pioneer and refiner of surgical technique for stapedectomy, publishing his series of 1,000 operations with outstanding results, and later made a study of its genetic basis.

In the early 1960s, he visited the House Otologic Institute in California, where he learned the trans-labyrinthine surgical approach to the inner ear, developing this, in collaboration with T T King, the neurosurgeon, into their own technique for removing acoustic nerve tumours. Its superior results soon led it to be adopted throughout Europe and America.

Over the next four decades he became pre-eminent in the surgery of the inner ear, leading on to the earliest multi-channel cochlear implantation. He headed Project Ear in the late 1970s and 1980s, developing purpose-built hardware for speech-processing, and was amongst the first to undertake multi-channel intra-cochlear electrodes. His trainees included many of today’s leading otologists and skull base surgeons. He travelled extensively, forging links with the leading otologists in the Western world, and was one of the few British surgeons to have been made an honorary member of the American Otologic Society.

In his retirement and until his death, he continued his research into Ménière’s disease, determined to locate the gene responsible for this distressing condition, research which is being continued today by his co-workers, Mark Bailey in Glasgow, and his son, Gavin Morrison.

Andrew was one of the first directors and a trustee of the British Academic Conferences in Otolaryngology, being its master in 1995. In the College he was a Hunterian Professor in 1966, on the Court of Examiners for the DLO and the FRCS, and on the SAC for otolaryngology. His interest in medico-legal work took him onto the council of the Medical Defence Union between 1971 and 1996. He was president of the section of otology at the Royal Society of Medicine, and a member of many prestigious organisations, including the Barany and Politzer Societies, the South African ORL, the Prosper Ménière’s Society of the USA.

Ambitious, competitive and successful at work and sport, he was modest about the things he did best and was always a most jovial companion. Outside surgery, golf was his passion. His first hole in one was achieved as a schoolboy in Stirling; his second came some 50 years later. He was well known at St Andrews, Rye and Chigwell golf clubs, and was a member of the R & A for many years, supporting their meetings and enjoying many friendships there.

He died on 6 January 2006, leaving his widow, Maureen, his daughter Claire and son Gavin, who followed him into ENT surgery.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Gavin Morrison].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England