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Biographical entry Donovan, Hugh (1897 - 1959)

MRCS 13 November 1919; FRCS 10 December 1925; LRCP 1919; MB ChB Edinburgh 1920; FRCS Ed 1924.

24 September 1897
16 December 1959
General surgeon and Urologist


Born on 24 September 1897, son of Lieutenant-Colonel R T Donovan RAMC, he was one of a large family which contributed notably to medicine and the Services. Major-General Sir Patrick Hehir, Indian Medical Service, was an uncle, and three of Donovan's brothers became well-known Birmingham doctors.

Educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, Hugh Donovan was a scholar, played in the XV and was colour-sergeant of the OTC. At Birmingham University his medical studies were interrupted by the first world war and he served as a surgeon-probationer in destroyers. His clinical studies were outstanding for he won all the medals, prizes and scholarships for his particular year. After qualifying in 1920 he was house surgeon to Seymour Barling before entering the Indian Medical Service. When he found that Service life was not to his taste he returned to resident hospital posts.

Once Donovan had decided to be a surgeon he took the Edinburgh Fellowship in 1924 and the English in 1925. His main interest was urology, which he studied in London, and was a clinical assistant at St Peter's Hospital. Soon afterwards he was appointed assistant surgeon at the Queen's Hospital, Birmingham.

In later life he decided to withdraw from general surgery and practise only as a urologist, and he became one of the leaders in his field. He built up a large department, with extensive out-patient services, which he aimed to make the urological centre for the West Midlands. Donovan was president of the Section of Urology of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1953-54, and vice-president of the Section of Surgery at the Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association in Birmingham in 1958. He accepted the presidency of the British Association of Urological Surgeons for 1960, but had to withdraw because of ill health.

On 19 December 1932 Hugh Donovan married Mabel Thorburn Johnstone MD, of Letchworth, an old friend and former fellow-student. It was a most happy marriage, and when Donovan's wife died leaving two small children, it was a tragic blow for him. He threw himself even more into his work and eventually impaired his health.

He was a man of independent views, and a lively conversationalist with a whimsical Irish charm.

He lived at 1194 Warwick Road, Solihull and later at Green Acres, Copt Heath, Warwickshire. He died on 16 December 1959 at the age of 62.

Speculation on the nature of the chemical structure which is the essence of the malignant cell. Nature 1943, 152, 509.
Severe anaemia and hyperpiesia associated with prostatic obstruction. Brit J Urol 1947, 19, 126.
Care of the urinary tract in paraplegic patients. Lancet 1947, 1, 515.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1960, 1, 62-63, with portrait and appreciations by HWF, F A R Stammers and AGWW, and p 136 with appreciation by Cranston Walker; Lancet 1960, 1, 64 with appreciation by BNB; Crawford Roll of the Indian Medical Service].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England