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Biographical entry Bull, John Courtney (1934 - 2010)

MRCS and FRCS 1963; MB BS London 1959.

12 May 1934
London, UK
28 March 2010
General surgeon


John Bull was the first consultant general surgeon to be appointed to the newly-built Crawley and Horsham Hospital. He was also on the staff at East Grinstead, and worked at Gatwick Park Hospital from 1984. He was born in London on 12 May 1934, the son of John Bull, a businessman, and his wife, Joyce, née Courtney. From the Forest School, Snaresbrook, in east London, he went up to University College, London to study engineering, but after a year switched courses and entered Guy's Hospital to study medicine. A pleasing and friendly manner, coupled with a keen interest in people, made him an ideal and eager student. He gained the Handcock prize in surgery in the year he qualified.

After house appointments, he was rejected for National Service because of colour blindness. At first, he embarked on a career in anaesthetics, but again colour blindness proved a stumbling block. At Guy's, John met Ivy Dean, a nurse. After their engagement Ivy became an air hostess. They married in 1963.

On passing the FRCS, he went to Norwich for two years as surgical registrar under Norman J Townsley and John P Stephens, both good technical surgeons with wide-ranging interests. Townsley, in addition to his general surgical practice, taught emergency neurosurgery and kept his junior staff on their toes by testing their knowledge of anatomy in the operating theatre. He went on to be senior registrar at Guy's Hospital, where he was greatly influenced by Sir Hedley Atkins, Nils Eckhoff, Sam Wass (the surgeon's surgeon), F N Glover and Robert Brain in thoracic surgery. On his appointment to Crawley Hospital, he was soon recognised as an excellent technical surgeon.

John went on two expeditions to Malawi as a medical officer with Lancing College, on trips undertaken to celebrate the life of Lancing old boy Gino Watkins, which involved trekking up Dr Livingstone's Shire River.

Outside medicine, John was a keen tennis player, sailor and gardener. He took full advantage of his membership of the Royal Academy and the National Trust, and was an opera enthusiast. At home, the Bull family was very involved in church activities and choral singing. In retirement, John and Ivy went on many Swan Hellenic cruises.

Above all, John was a devoted family man. Of his and Ivy's three children, Anthony John entered the RAF as a doctor and also became a pilot, Lucy married and Thomas Aidan became a lawyer. There are eight grandchildren. John Courtney Bull died suddenly from cerebral haemorrhage on 28 March 2010, having had a venous thrombosis affecting his left leg.

N Alan Green

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Mrs Ivy Bull; BMJ 2010 340 1306; Barry A Ross].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England