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Biographical entry Griffiths, Sir Hugh Ernest (1891 - 1961)

Kt 1949; CBE 1945; MRCS 10 February 1916; FRCS 13 December 1917; LRCP 1916; MB BS London 1918; MS 1920.

10 March 1891
16 May 1961
General surgeon


Born on 10 March 1891, son of T L and S A Griffiths, he studied medicine at the University of Wales and St Bartholomew's Hospital. He served as a surgeon-probationer in the RNVR 1914-15, qualified in 1916, and was a surgeon to the 1st London Hospital 1916-18, being mentioned in dispatches. He was also appointed demonstrator in anatomy at Bart's in 1916, a post which he held for ten years. He was Luther Holden Research Scholar in Surgery in 1918, and in 1919-1922 Chief Surgical Assistant. He was Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1923, and Arris and Gale lecturer in 1924.

It was, however, with his appointment in 1920 as surgeon to the Seamen's Hospital Society, attached to the Albert Dock Hospital, that his life's work really began. He made an intensive study of the work of seamen and dock-workers, spending many hours on board ship and in the docks actually doing the different jobs himself. With his knowledge of anatomy and physiology he was able to assess the physiological requirements of various types of industry and to judge how far these could be tackled by handicapped men. As a result his advice was much in demand by insurance companies, solicitors and trade unions, and his book Injury and incapacity, published in 1935, was based on an analysis of 50,000 cases from a large insurance company as well as from his own experience.

When the new Albert Dock Hospital was being planned Griffiths and the Secretary of the Seaman's Hospital Society studied the construction and administration of many hospitals abroad. Griffiths became Director of the Hospital's Accident and Rehabilitation Centre. Hi maxim was "getting fit is a full time job", and directed his patients, when sufficiently well, to spend the whole day in the gymnasium doing remedial exercises. The subject of his Hunterian lecture in 1943 was " The exposition of the treatment of the injured workman" , and his Mackenzie lecture in 1948 was "The surgeon and industry" (Brit med J 1949, 1, 255.)

Griffiths played a large part in establishing the Cripples Training College, now the Queen Elizabeth Training College for the Disabled, at Leatherhead, and he helped Dame Georgina Buller to set up the British Council for Rehabilitation for the Disabled in 1944. In the second world war he was consulting surgeon to the Ministry of Supply and was instrumental in establishing an industrial rehabilitation service in liberated Poland in 1945. For this work in the industrial and medico-legal field he was created CBE in 1945 and KBE in 1949.

He had served on the surgical staff at the Hertford County Hospital, Potters Bar Cottage Hospital, the Wimbledon Hospital, and All Saints Hospital. He had an original turn of mind, with a passion for accuracy, and hated hasty decisions based on insufficient knowledge. Griffiths had a warm, generous personality and was held in great esteem.

He married Doris Eirene, daughter of W H and Elizabeth James, in 1918. They had one son and one daughter. He lived at 90 Harley Street and at Cooden, Sussex. He died on 16 May 1961 aged 70, survived by his wife and children.


Diseases of spleen, liver, gall bladder and pancreas. Chapters in Gask & Wilson System of surgery, 1920.
Injury and incapacity, 1935.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1961, 1, 1545 with portrait and appreciations by DA and WET, and page 1693 by GRF; Lancet 1961, 1, 1176-1177, with appreciations by FSC and DCN, and p 1296 by GRF as in Brit med J ].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England