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Biographical entry Williams, Edward John (1928 - 2007)

FRCS 1958; MB BS Lond 1950; MS London 1965.

3 February 1928
Towyn, Wales, UK
General surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Edward John Williams was a consultant vascular and general surgeon at St Mary's Hospital, London, and Wexham Park Hospital, Slough. He was born in Towyn, a small village in Clwyd, north Wales, on 3 February 1928, the son of D C Williams. He was educated locally and did his undergraduate studies at the London Hospital Medical School. After qualifying, he was house physician to Lloyd Rusby and the children's department, and house surgeon to the cardiothoracic firm of Vernon Thompson and Geoffrey Flavell. He joined the RNVR for his National Service and was a squadron medical officer on HMS Cossack in Korea from 1952 to 1953 and on HMS Indefatigable in 1954.

On demobilisation, he returned to the London as senior registrar to Hermon Taylor, a pioneer vascular surgeon who was developing techniques for disobliteration and freeze-dried homografts, and then as an assistant on the surgical unit under Victor Dix and W T Irvine, who sent him as the Robertson exchange fellow in 1959 for a year to Chicago, taking with him his ravishingly beautiful bride, Sue. In Chicago he worked with R K Gilchrist, the general surgeon, and the vascular team under Julian, Dye and Geza de Takats. He returned to the London, bringing his new skills and expertise in vascular surgery, and, when in 1961 Irvine moved to St Mary's to be professor of surgery in succession to Charles Rob, John Williams accompanied him as senior lecturer and was later his deputy director of the academic surgical unit. St Mary's was at that time the centre for vascular surgery in London.

'EJ' (as he was known to many) was not a career academic and seized the opportunity in 1968 to move to the new hospital at Wexham Park, which was developed with close links to St Mary's. For the rest of his career he attended the surgical unit on Wednesday, taught the students and discussed cases with the registrars, and by his affability maintained the team spirit within the unit for the remainder of Irvine's tenure, and throughout Dudley's redirection of the unit from a vascular to a gastrointestinal interest. Many were the registrars and subsequent assistant directors who appreciated John's wise advice.

His work was directed to establishing vascular surgery in a large modern district general hospital, yet by maintaining close links with the academic surgical unit at St Mary's he was able to ensure that the standard of investigation and treatment of his patients was the same in both units. He did not neglect Wexham: he was chairman of the Oxford Group of Surgeons from 1984 to 1987, president of the consultants' mess at Wexham for many years and, in 1989, was elected president of the Society of Vascular Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland.

EJ maintained his links with St Mary's Hospital Medical School and regularly held the final MB examinations at Wexham. The examinations were organised meticulously, with outstanding cases, and followed by superb entertainment at his home on the outskirts of Gerrards Cross, where Sue and their two daughters kept horses.

In retirement he continued his interests by being chief medical officer at the National Horse Driving Championships, dividing his time between his cottage in north Wales and fishing on the River Tay, where friends had the rights on a stretch of water.

EJ lived life to the full, with an affability and gentlemanliness which made him so popular in company and in his professional life. He was remarkably helpful to many of his staff of all grades and made sure they were all well looked after.

Towards the end of his life his wife Sue developed cancer, which spoilt his retirement, for she organised his life. She died a year before he did, leaving two daughters.

Christopher Russell
John Blandy

The Royal College of Surgeons of England