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Biographical entry Vlasto, Philip (1919 - 2013)

FRCS 1979; MB BS London 1944.

25 November 1919
19 March 2013
Orthopaedic surgeon


Philip Vlasto was an assistant orthopaedic surgeon to the West Dorset Health Authority. He was born on 25 November 1919, just after the end of the First World War, to Augustus Vlasto, a businessman, and his wife, Milly. Philip was educated at Lockers Park School and then Charterhouse, where his fascination with things botanical and biological was nurtured by two teachers, Percy Chapman and Oleg Polunin, a well-known botanist. He went up to Trinity College, Oxford, to read medicine, and then went on to the London Hospital during the Blitz, where he dealt with many casualties.

Philip qualified in 1944, and then joined the RAF, serving as a medical officer at Pembroke Dock with the rank of flight lieutenant. After the Second World War, he bought into a private general practice in Weymouth, Dorset, conducting surgeries from his family home, Greyfriars. He was a highly popular and respected GP.

Peter Hywell Davies, the first orthopaedic surgeon in west Dorset, wanted some assistance and asked Philip if he would be interested in providing some help. He continued his association with the department until his retirement. Being an expert in carpentry, his skills in trauma and orthopaedic surgery shone through in theatre, and he performed joint replacement, then new to the area, with first class precision. Due to his devotion and manifest skills, he was awarded a fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons by election in 1979.

He was an orthopaedic adviser to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and was a member of its medical and survival committee for 10 years. Surgeon rear admiral Frank Golden, a past chairman of the committee, wrote: 'I remember him best for his wise opinions and pragmatic counsel at the meeting. Although an orthopod, his opinions on all aspects of medicine were both well informed and balanced. However, it was really his pragmatism coupled with his humanity that gave him the ability to integrate those skills with the social aspects of the case under consideration that was brilliant and so considerate.'

In 1944 Philip married Sheila née Tait. Their daughter, Rosie, was born a year later, but Sheila died shortly afterwards from pneumonia. He met his second wife, Pat, whilst in the forces at Pembroke Dock, Pat being the only Wren on the base. They married in 1947. They had two sons, Anthony and Kenneth.

On his retirement in 1980, Philip continued with his carpentry, and his love of gardening developed. He moved to Child Okeford, Dorset, where he and Pat created a most beautiful garden, admired by all. Philip Vlasto died on 19 March 2013, aged 93.

John D Wrighton

The Royal College of Surgeons of England