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Biographical entry Gibbon, Norman Otway Knight (1918 - 2008)

MB ChB Liverpool 1941; FRCS Edin 1945; FRCS 1947; ChM 1951.

12 October 1918
11 November 2008


Norman Gibbon was a distinguished urologist in Liverpool who made outstanding contributions to the management of the bladder in spinal injury. He was born on 12 October 1918 in Glasgow, the son of a marine engineer. His mother was a teacher. He was educated at Greenock Academy and then studied medicine at Liverpool Medical School. He qualified in 1941, the day after the May Blitz on the city.

After house jobs at Walton Hospital he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and was posted to the flagship HMS Duke of York at Scapa Flow. There he successfully treated the captain's ischiorectal abscess, making it unnecessary for him to give up his command. Later Norman found himself on tank-landing craft during the Normandy landings.

On demobilisation he returned to Liverpool as an assistant to Charles Wells, where he became interested in urology and was assigned the task of managing the paraplegic patients at the Southport Spinal Injury Centre. He began to study their urodynamics using a home-made cystometer, and wrote extensively on the subject. He was among the first to realise the dangers of the high pressures generated in the neuropathic bladder, and their effect on the upper urinary tract. For this he devised a simple endoscopic operation by which to divide the external sphincter. At the same time he became concerned with the prevention of infection and invented his own, beautifully simple catheter - now known by his name - which was narrow, easy to pass and to keep in place and did not irritate the urethra.

He became the director of the Liverpool Regional Urology Centre and was known internationally for his work. He was awarded the St Peter's medal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons. Much sought-after as a visiting professor, Norman travelled widely, an experience which made him appreciate the value of travel. For this he endowed a travelling scholarship for urologists from Merseyside. He was president of the Liverpool Medical Institution.

He was married to Eileen (née Hares), a nurse, and they had five children. She predeceased him and in 2000 he married Sheila. Norman Gibbon died on 11 November 2008, aged 90. At his funeral a jazz band played at his request.

Sarah Gillam

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2009 338 1290 - accessed 20 May 2015].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England