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Biographical entry Pyne, John Robin (1939 - 2012)

FRCS 1971; MRCS 1965; MB BS London 1965; DO Eng 1969; LRCP 1965; FRCOphth 1991.

13 April 1939
Shoeburyness, Essex
20 May 2012
Ophthalmic surgeon


John Pyne was a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich and West Norwich hospitals, and also worked privately at the BUPA Hospital Norwich in Colney, Norfolk. One of nature's true gentlemen, he had a courteous approach to his many grateful patients, his colleagues, junior staff and the nursing staff who supported him in his work.

He was born in Shoeburyness, Essex, on 13 April 1939 the son of Edward Gordon Pyne, a chest physician, and his wife Gladys Elizabeth Anne née Conway. He spent the first seven years of his life in India, where his father was stationed in the Army. The family returned to the UK for John's education, first in Chelmsford and then at Felsted School.

He went for his medical education to Charing Cross Hospital, London, and qualified in 1965. Pre-registration house appointments followed at the hospital in surgery and medicine, followed by a casualty officer post. He recorded his gratitude to A Harding Rains, Peter Philips, the urologist, and Leslie Oliver, a neurosurgeon. John decided quite early in his career to specialise in ophthalmic surgery: his further training was at Moorfields. As a senior registrar there he also had sessions at the National Hospital, Queen's Square, and Great Ormond Street. At Moorfields he was greatly influenced by Barrie Jones, Lorimer Fison, a pioneer retinal surgeon, and Ayoub and Greaves.

He joined the Norwich ophthalmic department as a consultant in 1974, and was an excellent colleague to Peter Hunter, Peter James and later Peter Davies. Although very general in his approach, he later specialised in retinal surgery.

He wrote just three papers; his first, 'Carcinoma of the penis in a Jew circumcised in infancy' (Br J Surg 1967 Aug; 54[8]:729-31) was a particularly unusual contribution from a doctor destined to be an eye surgeon.

After retiring from active NHS work, John continued to work as a locum for local opticians, conducting eye examinations and had sessions at D R Grey and at Dipple and Conway. He was well-known for his professional ability, and for his charming and compassionate manner. The opticians felt greatly privileged to have his assistance, admiring him for the depth of his knowledge.

John undertook a lot of unpaid voluntary work. In Norwich he worked for the Samaritans. Further afield, he gave his valuable services to Fight for Sight in Africa, operating on and restoring the gift of sight to hundreds of Africans.

Outside medicine John had many interests. He was a good pianist and enjoyed playing the works of Mozart and Chopin in particular, but had a wide knowledge of classical music, particularly orchestral works. He possessed a fine tenor voice and sang in the Norwich Philharmonic Choir and other choirs, and at many concerts throughout Norfolk. He enjoyed swimming, playing squash, and enjoyed skiing, mainly in the Trois Vallées region of France. His last skiing trip was to Verbier, Switzerland, three years before he died.

As a medical student he met Judith Carolyn née Wheaton: they married in 1963 whilst they were both students. They had two sons, Stephen and Michael, and a daughter, Anna. Stephen works in education, Michael is a commercial airline pilot and Anna is a professional musician. They describe him succinctly as a 'fine man and a wonderful father'.

In 1997 John married his second wife, Marcelle née Chapman, who had three children by her first marriage. They lived very happily in Shotesham village, where, coincidentally, the first surgeon to the original Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Benjamin Gooch, lived and practised as a surgeon-apothecary in the eighteenth century.

John Pyne developed bowel cancer which was treated surgically and then by courses of chemotherapy for two years. He never complained and was active into his last few months. He died at his home in Shotesham on 20 May 2012 at the age of 73. He was survived by his second wife Marcelle, his three children, 12 grandchildren and three step-children.

N Alan Green
Peter L James

Sources used to compile this entry: [Eastern Daily Press 23 May 2012, BMJ 2012 345 5239, Stephen Pyne, Marcelle Pyne and Damian Conway].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England