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Biographical entry Taylor, Julian (1889 - 1961)

CBE 1946; OBE 1919; MRCS 9 November 1911; FRCS 12 February 1914; LRCP 1911; Hon FRACS 1949; MB BS London 1912; MS 1920; Fellow of University College.

26 January 1889
15 April 1961
General surgeon


Born on 26 January 1889 son of Edward Ingram Taylor and Margaret Boole, he was educated at University College School, University College and University College Hospital, where he qualified in November 1911 with the Conjoint Diploma, following this up with the qualifying degrees of London University in which he obtained honours in medicine in 1912. He served in a succession of resident appointments at University College Hospital, becoming a true disciple of Wilfred Trotter. At the outbreak of war in 1914 Lance-Corporal Taylor of the Medical contingent University of London Officers Training Corps was commissioned as Lieutenant RAMC serving initially with 85th Field Ambulance in France and later in Salonika as officer in charge of the surgical division of the 52nd and 43rd General Hospitals, for which service he was awarded the OBE in 1919.

After the war, returning to University College Hospital, he worked for a time in the newly created surgical unit but was soon appointed to the consultant staff and, in addition, joined the staff of the National Hospital, Queen Square. He was also attached to Harrow Hospital, to King Edward VII Hospital for Officers and to the Florence Nightingale Hospital. For a short period he was surgeon to the Queen's Hospital for Children. He quickly became recognised as a superb teacher of surgery as well as a highly competent surgeon, prepared in the Trotter tradition to cover a wide field of surgery.

When war again broke out in 1939 he volunteered to return to the RAMC although over the age of 50, and in 1941 was posted as surgical consultant to the Malaya command with the rank of Colonel. Shortly after his arrival Malaya and Singapore were overwhelmed by the Japanese and he was taken prisoner. After an interval an order was issued that all senior officers were to be transferred to camps in Formosa but, following universal request and pressure, Julian Taylor was permitted to remain in Changi Prison with the others, where for the next three and a half years he carried out remarkable work, not only in the field of surgery working with negligible facilities but, even more, in the field of morale by his inspiration to men much younger than himself. With his wide range of knowledge and experience he could lecture on English history, French history, the City of London, the tides round the English Coasts and the sailing of small boats, thus relieving the tedium and hopelessness of the situation.

In the field of surgery he approached all problems from simple first truths and was perfectly capable of tackling anything from the top of the head to the soles of the feet. One great problem was the rehabilitation of those who had lost a lower limb and needed an adequate prosthesis. With the help of a sapper officer, Captain Bradley, he designed and constructed artificial limbs which, although heavy being made of local wood, served their wearers well and which incorporated efficient artificial knee joints.

Another surgical triumph was the successful operative treatment of chronic peptic ulcer under appalling conditions - an emaciated patient, no X-rays, chloroform anaesthesia, thread the only suture material and little milk for the postoperative period. The finest testimony to his work is the chapter on surgery in Changi prison camp which he contributed to the official history of surgery in the second world war. For his work he was awarded the CBE. Returning to London he appeared uninterested in once more building up a larger consulting practice, partly because he returned to find his wife stricken with a mortal and lingering illness during which he did much to nurse her himself. He threw himself into his work at University College and at the College, where he was elected a member of Council in 1946 and a member of the Court of Examiners in 1952. As a member of the committee of management of the Conjoint Board of the two Royal Colleges, he acted as their visitor to the Faculty of Medicine of University College Khartoum in December 1953. In 1954 at the age of 65 he retired from his hospital, but in October 1955, while Vice-President of the College, he acted for the President, Sir Harry Platt, during the latter's visit to North America. Later in the same year he was appointed Bradshaw Lecturer, and he made a detailed catalogue of the College silver in his capacity as Custodian. He was President of the Association of Surgeons in 1953 and of the Surgical and Neurological Sections of the Royal Society of Medicine.

In the autumn of 1956 he was asked to accept the chair of surgery in the University of Khartoum, vacant and occupied temporarily by John Morley. Thereafter the third phase of his career commenced. His decision was of incalculable benefit to the Sudan and enabled him to encourage and instruct the young surgical students in a developing country, in which there was a grave risk that the high standard set up by the Sudan Medical Service prior to Independence would be difficult to maintain in the transition period. By his personal influence and enthusiasm, he persuaded the College to initiate the practice of conducting examinations for the Primary FRCS in Khartoum. When he first arrived he had to overcome considerable inertia in the department of pathology, partly attributable to the fact that, in a country where post mortem examinations are unacceptable, the teaching of and research into morbid histology are, to say the least, difficult. He inspired the assistance of the newly appointed Professor, J B Lynch FRCS, in together overcoming these difficulties and conducting research into the causes and treatment of madura foot, black and yellow, a scourge in the Sudan. At this time he was on sabbatical leave from the Council of the College, from which he was due to retire in 1962. As a member of the Khartoum Yacht Club he was able to keep a boat on the Nile and continue his lifelong hobby of sailing.

A man who hated humbug and pomposity and quickly detected the insincere and superficial, he would go out of his way to help and encourage those whom he considered worthy, however much they appeared to be rebels against orthodoxy. He possessed a personal reserve of manner which some found a barrier, but this concealed a fundamental gentleness combined with immense force of purpose and self-discipline. Possessed of a ready wit, some idiocy on the part of a self-styled authority on any problem would bring a twinkle to his eye and a dry comment very much to the point. As an examiner of experience he held strong views that any examination should be educative as well as a test of knowledge and that it was morally wrong to allow a candidate who had been guilty of an inaccuracy to depart under the impression that his answer had been correct.

For the last two years of his life, despite a serious failure in health, he carried on steadfastly, and when in August 1961 he returned to England on leave he died soon after arrival, while actually discussing further measures for the development of Sudanese surgery. To the end he preserved his youthful appearance and approach to life. If ever a man proved in his life the truth of Napoleon's dictum that the moral is to the material as ten to one, that man was Julian Taylor.
He married in 1926 Edith Margaret (MB London, MRCS, FFARCS) daughter of Dennis Ross-Johnson, who died in University College Hospital on 2 November 1955 and by whom he had two sons. He died suddenly on 15 April 1961 at the age of 72 while on leave from the Sudan at his home at Bepton near Midhurst. A memorial service was held in St Pancras Church on Wednesday 10 May 1961 at which the lesson was read by the President, Sir Arthur Porritt, and an address was given by A J Gardham MS, FRCS, Senior Surgeon to University College Hospital.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 18 April 1961 p 17 A, 20 April p 19 by Sir Edwin Chapman-Andrews KCMG, HM Ambassador at Khartoum, 28 April p 17 C by HB and AC, 4 May p 17 C by CHS; Lancet 1961, 1, 952 by JWDB, JAF, JBL, and CWF and p 1068 by WES on his yachts; Brit med J 1961, 1, 1255 with portrait and appreciations by A J Gardham, R Ahmed and A Yacoub, and p 1470 by Dr Lucy Parker on his connection with Harrow Hospital 1930-55, and p 1549 by D J R Moore, 1961, 2, 182 by Dr L A Nabri, and p 716 by M A K Javid of Iran; Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1961, 28, 389-392 with portrait; Brit J Surg 1961, 49, 1-3 with portrait. Mrs Julian Taylor: The Times 3 November 1955 no memoir; Lancet 1955, 2, 1093].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England