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Biographical entry Wilson, John Samuel Pattison (1923 - 2006)

MRCS and FRCS 1973; LRCP LRCS Edin FRFPS Glasg 1946; FRCS Edin 1959.

16 October 1923
Edinburgh, Scotland
27 September 2006
Plastic surgeon


John Samuel Pattison Wilson, or ‘Iain’, as he was generally known, was a plastic surgeon in London with a particular interest in head and neck surgery. He was born in Edinburgh on 16 October 1923, and at the age of six went away to boarding school at the Edinburgh Academy. He remained in Edinburgh to study medicine.

Following his graduation, he spent his National Service in the RAF and rose to the rank of squadron leader. Whilst working at Halton he met Sir Archibald McIndoe, who persuaded him to train as a plastic surgeon.

On demobilization, he completed registrar appointments in Leeds and Sheffield. He worked with Fenton Braithwaite and quite early in his training (1956) wrote papers, starting with the serial excision of benign lesions.

His first consultant appointment was as a plastic surgeon in Newcastle, where he was famous for his hard work, his parties and his Jaguar car. After some years in Newcastle, he moved to St George’s Hospital, London, and Queen Mary’s, Roehampton, with honorary appointments at the Westminster and Royal Marsden hospitals.

Although a general reconstructive surgeon, he had a special interest in head and neck surgery and will be remembered for his extensive repairs following major cancer resections, while the template he designed for breast reconstruction is still in common use.

He was a great teacher and taught anybody who wanted to learn, not only those in this own specialty. His weekly seminars on a Thursday evening at his consulting rooms in Portland Place were of great benefit to surgical trainees, particularly those based in London. Among his many papers were those on the embryology and manifestations of the human tail.

He was an examiner and was awarded honorary fellowships of various Colleges; he was an Apothecary and Freeman of the City of London. He travelled and talked all over the world, but, as a result of his experiences in the Far East and in the Japanese prisoner of war ward at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, he refused to visit Japan or have anything to do with Japanese trainees.

He was a man of great energy, yet was a very private man. Few knew about the model train set with a mock-up of Paddington station in the attic at Portland Place, or that he was a world expert on the philately of Canada. He was a kind colleague, giving good advice. He was always interested in trainees, especially what they were doing, who was teaching them and what they were writing. The last months of his life were borne with great fortitude, dignity and good humour as he battled cancer. He died on 27 September 2006.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England