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Biographical entry Griffiths, Jonathan David (1938 - 2010)

FRCS 1968; MB BS Wales 1962; FRCOphth 1989.

6 March 1938
Tonyrefail, Glamorgan, Wales
27 April 2010


Jonathan David Griffiths was an ophthalmologist at the Bath Eye Hospital. He was born on 6 March 1938 in a colliery house in Tonyrefail, Glamorgan, Wales. His father, William Marsden Griffiths, was a mining engineer and colliery manager, as had been his grandfather and great-grandfather before him. His mother, Bessie née Richards, was the daughter of a mining engineer who had worked with Cecil Rhodes in South Africa, and later became a JP in Llantrisant.

Jon was educated at Llandaff Cathedral School, where he was a chorister and made cat's whisker radios and small steam engines. He went on to Tonyrefail Grammar School, intending to follow his father into mining, but his older brother had studied medicine at the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff and Jon decided he would follow in his footsteps. He failed his first year, having spent too much time rowing and playing the classical guitar, ukulele and banjo, but he re-enrolled. He went on to met his future wife, Lorraine Deane, whom he married in 1964 and who later became his clinical assistant.

His first house job was with the professorial medical unit in Cardiff Royal Infirmary and entailed covering for the eye ward, which enthralled him. After various senior house officer jobs in the accident and emergency department and in orthopaedics, he passed the primary and started work at the Royal Eye Hospital in Lambeth, a relatively small hospital which provided him with much experience. There he remained as a registrar and a senior registrar and, after passing the FRCS, worked at the Royal Free Hospital, doing research into the retinal circulation.

In 1972, he was appointed as a consultant in ophthalmology to the Bath Eye Hospital which, though small, had one of the few laser machines in the country and enabled him to continue his research. Within a few years the Bath Eye Hospital was incorporated into the Royal United Hospital, Bath, and his work load was much increased. He established fortnightly clinics at outlying hospitals in Frome, Devizes and Warminster. He still had to develop and print his own retinal photographs. He developed a special interest in diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment, and was an early exponent of phakoemulsification for cataract. Gradually his department enlarged, with more junior staff and better funding. Seat belt legislation reduced the numbers of night calls due to severe facial and eye injuries.

A gentle, modest man, he did not enjoy large social gatherings, but enjoyed white water canoeing, sailing his Topper dinghy, walking and camping. He read widely and continued his interest in music and his family of four children - Alan (a GP in France), Anne, Helen and Julia (a GP in Dorchester). In November 1998 he had a myocardial infarction. Despite a triple bypass and an implanted defibrillator, he never worked again. He died on 27 April 2010 in Bath.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Lorraine Griffiths; Bath Chronicle 15 May 2010].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England