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Biographical entry Hardy, Eric Gordon (1918 - 2010)

MRCS and FRCS 1958; MB ChB Aberdeen 1940; MD 1954; FRCS Edin 1948.

21 July 1918
Royton, Lancashire, UK
9 July 2010
General surgeon


Eric Hardy was a hardworking general surgeon who spent his consultant career in Chester and was awarded emeritus status when he retired in 1982. He was born on 21 July 1918 in Royton, Lancashire. His father was Frank Stanley Hardy, a typewriter mechanic, and his mother Jean née Leslie. Eric was the only son of a short-lived marriage and was brought up in the Scottish Glens by his mother, a talented if irascible teacher. Overcoming the circumstances of his upbringing, Eric excelled at Banff Academy, winning school prizes. As a classical scholar with little or no science training, he decided to study medicine. He qualified with honours in 1940 at Aberdeen University and at a later date completed his medical doctorate.

After house appointments in Aberdeen he moved south, first to Chester and then to Norwich. He entered wartime National Service as a flight lieutenant in the RAFVR, one of his postings being in Norfolk. There he met and married Shirley née Cook, a staff nurse.

Eric went to Norwich after the war as a registrar, and he gained considerable experience with Charles Noon, a surgeon of the 'old school', and Norman Townsley, who had just come back from Army service in Norway and India. Two of his three sons were born in Norwich. John, now an IT consultant, was born in 1949 and Peter, a local government officer in Norfolk, in 1951. The family lived in 'Pull's Ferry', a delightful house owned by the dean and chapter of Norwich Cathedral, that fronts the River Wensum.

In 1953 the family emigrated to the USA when Eric obtained a post as a fellow and instructor in surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. He worked in the famous cardiovascular unit with Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley at the Jefferson Davis Hospital. Notwithstanding a stimulating professional environment and the prospect of rapid career advancement, in 1955 Eric and Shirley decided to take the children home to England.

He was then appointed resident surgical officer at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and associated hospitals, working with his former 'chiefs' and in addition 'Monty' Ridley Thomas, a good general surgeon with a urological interest, and Alan Birt. Working for all four surgeons, including his former chiefs, Noon and Townsley, he obtained good paediatric training, some neurosurgical experience, vascular training, as well as exposure to the full range of general surgical procedures.

Eric Hardy then proceeded to Newcastle, perhaps on the recommendation of Norman Townsley who held him in high regard and knew the professor there well. He became first assistant in the department of surgery at Durham University and to the surgical professorial unit in Newcastle. Under the guidance of the dynamic Andrew Lowden his surgical skills were further increased. He returned to his studies and passed the English fellowship in 1958, under the impression that this was essential at consultant interviews. He was appointed to the Chester Royal Infirmary as a consultant general surgeon the following year. Eric and the family moved there in July 1959 just after the birth of their third son, Michael, who is now a technical consultant in the oil industry.

He published on 'Acute ischaemia in limb injuries' and did experimental work on 'The role of bacteria in irreversible haemorrhagic shock', and the use of trypsin on experimental thrombotic and inflammatory conditions. He was an avid correspondent to the broadsheets and was respected for his comments on medical and world matters.

His MD thesis was accepted in 1954 but in 1987, after he had retired, he wrote a letter to the editor of the Journal of the RSM based on this thesis. An article on Meigs' and pseudo-Meigs' syndrome had been published suggesting the role of 'lymphatic stomata' in the diaphragm in the benign ovarian tumour producing both ascites and pleural effusion. Eric Hardy, based on his early work, felt that frequent shock waves produced by coughing, for example, could easily explain the diffusion of fluid in the abdomen to a sub-atmospheric pressure zone of the pleural cavity and through an attenuated diaphragm. There was no need to implicate lymphatic stomata.

In Chester he gained a superb reputation as a fine diagnostician, an excellent teacher who 'did not suffer fools gladly', but who was extremely supportive to his staff and much appreciated for his support of medical colleagues. Many of his trainees still use and pass on some of Eric's techniques.

He was a founder and president of the Liverpool and North West Society of Surgeons and was honoured by his peers when elected president of the Chester and North Wales Medical Society.

He retired from his busy surgical life in 1982, and for the next ten years became a 'hobby' farmer in west Cheshire. After his wife, Shirley, died in 1994 he moved back to Norfolk and lived for some 15 years in Surlingham near Norwich. He was very active up to the last, and was shopping in Norwich a few days before his death following a fall. Eric Gordon Hardy died on 9 July 2010, and left three sons and five grandchildren.

N Alan Green

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Peter Hardy; BMJ 2010 341 6189; George Foster].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England