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Biographical entry Scott, John Eric Somerville (1926 - 2012)

FRCS 1953; MB BChir Cambridge 1948; MD 1962; Hon FAAP 1984.

16 April 1926
5 September 2012
Paediatric surgeon


John Scott was the first full-time paediatric surgeon in the then Northern Region when he was appointed as a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1960. He continued to provide the service essentially single-handed for the next decade. He was born in Zanzibar, East Africa, where his father, Douglas Somerville Scott, was in the Colonial Medical Service. His mother was Dorothy May Scott née Fletcher. Later in Scott's childhood his family relocated to Penzance, Cornwall, where his father was a GP. His later childhood was also considerably saddened by the death of his elder sister following a, possibly unnecessary, operation to straighten her legs. Scott was educated at Upcotte House and Sherborne, before going up to Queens' College, Cambridge, to follow a wartime accelerated course in medicine. He carried out his clinical studies at the Middlesex Hospital. National Service was spent as a medical officer in the RAF.

On graduation he soon developed an interest in the then comparatively new specialty of paediatric surgery and naturally gravitated to Great Ormond Street Hospital to train under Sir Denis Browne. He then won a Harkness scholarship and spent time at the Boston Floating Hospital with Orvar Swenson and others to fine tune his skills.

On his arrival in Newcastle John worked at the Fleming Memorial Hospital for Sick Children, the Royal Victoria Infirmary and the Babies Hospital where, with the anaesthetist John Inkster and a dedicated nursing team, he made considerable advances in the management of the surgical neonate.

He was an active member of the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons (BAPS), serving as the honorary secretary and treasurer, and becoming president from 1982 to 1984. He travelled widely during these years and established important international connections and friendship, particularly in the USA. In 1984 he was made an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and in 1990 was awarded the highest honour of BAPS, the Sir Denis Browne Gold Medal.

While inevitably starting his consultant career as a general paediatric surgeon, when further colleagues were gradually appointed John increasingly developed his interest and expertise in the developing sub-specialty of paediatric urology. Through his research and writing he made many important contributions to the field, and had a particular interest in the pathologies associated with the ureterovesical junction.

He retired, with great reluctance it has to be said, in 1991. Having previously been instrumental in setting up both the Northern Region Maternity Survey and the Congenital Abnormality Register, he spent much of his 'retirement' in these offices and continuing to publish. Thus his first publication - a case study of surgical constipation - appeared in 1955 and his last, 50 years later, in 2005!

Work was certainly John's driving force, but he played squash to a fairly advanced age, was a strong supporter of classical music in the North East, and for many years shared his daughter Georgina's passion for horses. He was a forceful character with strong opinions, which he was never afraid to express, but there are many in the north of England who have every reason to be grateful for his single-minded devotion to his patients.

He was survived by his wife Audrey née Avison, whom he married in 1951, son Jason and daughter Georgina. John Scott died on 5 September 2012, at the age of 86.

Laurie Rangecroft and John Wagget

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2012 345 7098, Jason Scott, Alan Craft, Simon Court and Michael de la Hunt].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England