Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Wastell, Christopher (1932 - 2012)

MB BS London 1957; MRCS LRCP 1957; FRCS 1960; MS 1966.

13 October 1932
Birmingham, UK
18 January 2012
Gastrointestinal surgeon


Christopher Wastell was professor of surgery at Westminster Medical School, London. He was born on 13 October 1932 in Birmingham, the fourth child and third son of Edgar Barker Wastell, a manager, and Doris Emeline Wastell née Pett. He was educated at George Dixon Primary School, Edgbaston, and then Drax Grammar School in Yorkshire. He went on to study medicine at Guy's Hospital Medical School.

He held house posts at Joyce Green Hospital, Dartford, and in Farnborough, and was then a senior house officer at Bristol Royal Infirmary. He went on to gain experience in paediatric surgery at Great Ormond Street, where he was a house surgeon. He then spent a year at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, as a research fellow, before joining the Westminster Hospital and Medical School in 1963 as a registrar to the newly-formed academic surgical unit headed by Harold Ellis. The senior lecturer at the time was (later Sir) Roy Calne, the lecturer (later Sir) Norman Browse and the house officer (later Sir) Barry Jackson. Wastell then became a lecturer, senior lecturer and then reader, before gaining a personal chair in 1982. In that capacity he established a flourishing academic surgical department at St Stephen's Hospital, Chelsea (later to become the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital) against considerable opposition by some of the existing staff. Audit and peer review was not welcome at that time, but Wastell's perseverance won through. His research interest at that time was in gastric surgery and duodenal ulceration. When Harold Ellis retired in 1989, Wastell was appointed to the university chair of surgery at Westminster Medical School.

He edited or co-authored several books on the surgery of the stomach and duodenum, most notably Surgery of the stomach and duodenum with Lloyd Nyhus (Boston, Little Brown and Co, 1986) and Surgery of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine with Lloyd Nyhus and Philip Donahue (Boston, London, Little Brown, 1995). Later, as duodenal ulceration became largely a medical condition, he became interested in HIV infection and the surgical implications of AIDS, and published extensively on this subject.

At the Royal College of Surgeons he was a Hunterian professor in 1969 and later a member of the Court of Examiners. In retirement he became a volunteer in the Hunterian museum at the College, and worked for the National Counselling Service for Sick Doctors and the Overseas Research Students Awards Scheme. With his abiding interest in John Hunter, he was an enthusiastic member of the Hunterian Society, giving the society's oration in 1988, entitled 'John Hunter - a man of his time'. Two years later he was elected president and delivered a provocative presidential address, 'Pedagogues and surgeons', in which he asked the question 'are professors of surgery necessary?'

He was a keen gardener and a passionate sailor. In retirement he completed the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (in 2000) and served as commodore of the Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club (from 2006 to 2008). He continued to sail even after suffering a stroke, from which he made a remarkable recovery, apart from a partial paralysis of his left arm.

Chris was quietly spoken and modest. He was a much admired teacher and an excellent supervisor of his many research registrars. His funeral, a secular service, was attended by a large number of his former juniors, as well as by many consultant colleagues.

In 1958 he married Margaret Anne Fletcher. They had three children (Giles, Jackie and Viv) and five grandchildren. Christopher Wastell died of cancer on 18 January 2012, aged 79.

Sir Barry Jackson
Sarah Gillam

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2012 344 3401; Imperial College Reporter Obituary: Professor Christopher Wastell - accessed 19 March 2014; personal knowledge].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England