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Biographical entry McIndoe, Sir Archibald Hector (1900 - 1960)

Kt 1947; CBE 1944; Cmdr Legion of Honour; Cmdr Order of the White Lion (Czechoslovakia); Officer Order of Polonia Restituta 1945; Cmdr Order of Orange Nassau (Holland); MRCS and FRCS 9 June 1932; FACS 1934; Hon FACS 1948; Hon FRCSI; MB ChB NZ 1923.

4 May 1900
12 April 1960
Plastic surgeon


Born on 4 May 1900, son of John Mclndoe and Mabel Hill of Dunedin NZ, he was educated at Otago High School and the medical school of Otago University, where he was a medallist in medicine and surgery. After qualifying he was appointed house surgeon at Waikato Hospital, and in 1924 was awarded a Foundation Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, where he commenced working on 1 January 1925 as a First Assistant in Pathological Anatomy until 1927. During this period he published several papers on hepatic disease in conjunction with V S Councillor, and two individual papers of importance on portal cirrhosis and on the structure of the bile canaliculi. Subsequently he was awarded a John William White scholarship for foreign study and in 1929 was appointed first assistant in surgery. In 1931 he proceeded to England, on the suggestion of his cousin Sir Harold Gillies, to take up an appointment as clinical assistant in the department of plastic surgery at St Bartholomew's Hospital, and in 1932 received his first permanent appointment as surgeon and lecturer in tropical surgery at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, then situated in Endsleigh Gardens, and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which appointment he held until 1939 when he became consulting surgeon. By this time his appointments included those of plastic surgeon to St Bartholomew's Hospital, the Chelsea Hospital for Women, St Andrew's Hospital and the Hampstead Children's Hospital. In addition he was consulting plastic surgeon to the Royal North Stafford Infirmary and to Croydon General Hospital.

In 1938 he was appointed consultant in plastic surgery to the Royal Air Force and, on the outbreak of the war in 1939, he selected the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead, which had been rebuilt shortly before the war and which possessed ample land for expansion, as a suitable site for the establishment of a centre for plastic and jaw surgery, and as a result the hospital has become world famous. He strengthened his own position immensely by always resolutely refusing to be put into uniform and thereby become subject to military discipline.

The work done by him in rehabilitating badly burned aircrew was quite outstanding, not only in the physical plane but in the sphere of morale.

Richard Hillary, a terribly burned fighter pilot and later killed in action, gives a graphic account in The Last Enemy of what he and others like him owed to the skill and inspiration of Mclndoe. The Guinea Pig Club founded by him with 600 original members, of whom Hillary was appropriately the first, having been operated upon personally by him, perpetuates his memory by the annual meeting at East Grinstead to which members come from all over the world.

After the war many honours were bestowed upon him. At the College he became a member of Council in 1946 and Vice-President in 1958. He had been Hunterian Professor in 1939 and in 1958 was Bradshaw Lecturer, his subject being facial burns. His most outstanding service to the College, however, was his initiative in obtaining magnificent donations to its funds in his capacity as a member of the finance and the appeal committees. After his death an appeal was launched in his memory to raise funds for the completion of the last phase of the rebuilding, in particular the Hunterian Museum. A past President of the Association of Plastic Surgeons, he was President of the Section of Plastic Surgery at the BMA annual meeting in 1956.

McIndoe's brilliant career was no accident but due to a combination of factors. He was a natural artist with facile hands and a pleasing personality. Forthright in expression, he was quick in making a decision. Fortunate in being a cousin of Gillies, the doyen of plastic surgery, who persuaded him to forsake general for plastic surgery, he had the great gift of an iron constitution coupled with an infinite capacity for hard work. An inspiring teacher and a born leader he had a wonderful warmth of personality and always remained approachable and friendly, hating pomposity and insincerity. His contributions to plastic surgery are too numerous to be detailed here, suffice it to say that he published numerous articles on his subject, invented special instruments and placed plastic surgery on a solid and permanent foundation as an important branch of surgery requiring brains as well as technical skill, but he will be remembered best by the many to whom he gave new life and the courage to face it.

After his death a memorial research unit was opened by the Minister of Health at the Queen Victoria Hospital on 22 March 1961. He married first on 31 July 1924 Adonia Aitken of Dunedin, by whom he had two daughters and whose marriage was dissolved in 1953, and secondly on 31 July 1954 Mrs Constance Belcham, previously the wife of Major-General R F K Belcham. He died in his sleep on the night of 11-12 April 1960.

A memorial service was held on 12 May 1960 in St Clement Danes, Strand, the RAF church, and an address was delivered by the President of the College, Sir James Paterson Ross.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 13 April 1960 p 15 A with portrait and appreciation by R J V Battle, 19 April p 13 E by Air Vice-Marshal Sir John Cordingley and Sir Philip Manson-Bahr, 13 May p 16 D memorial service, and 28 July p 12 G his will; Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1960; 26, 333 with photograph, appreciations by Sir C Naunton Morgan and Sir Arthur Porritt, and 27, 62 reproduction of painting by Anna Zinkeisen; Lancet 1960, 1, 929 with portrait and appreciation by Sir J Paterson Ross; Brit med J 1960, 1, 1280 with portrait and appreciation by PHJ; Leonard Mosley Faces from the fire, a biography, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1962; Hugh McLeave Mclndoe, plastic surgeon, Frederick Muller 1966].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England