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Biographical entry Aylwin, John Angus (1917 - 1968)

MRCS and FRCS 1948; MB ChB Leeds 1940.

8 June 1968
Thoracic surgeon


John Angus Aylwin was born in Leeds, the son of Ernest Angus Aylwin, an engineer, who married a Miss Bates, but John was the only man in the family to take up medicine. He was educated at the Leeds Grammar School and in medicine at Leeds University, where he qualified MB ChB in 1940. He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1948. In 1943 he married Margaret Gibson, daughter of Sir Granville Gibson MP. There were three sons of this marriage, but none of them took up a medical career.

He received a sound surgical training in the Moynihan tradition from Digby Chamberlain and George Armitage, for whom he was house surgeon, and he subsequently worked as medical officer at the Warde-Aldam Hospital, South Almsall in Yorkshire, where he undertook a considerable amount of general surgery and also became acquainted with the many complicated injuries that occur in a coal-mining area. Like his teachers he was a precise, careful and gentle surgeon.

After serving for some years as registrar with P R Allison at the General Infirmary at Leeds he became dedicated to thoracic surgery, and when P R Allison moved to Oxford he was appointed to the Leeds staff as a thoracic surgeon, junior to Geoffrey Wooler; he concentrated chiefly on pulmonary and oesophageal surgery, and did very valuable work in this field. During the war he was a Surgeon-Lieutenant RNVR from 1942 to 1946.

He was a man of great courage and determination. On 25 August 1958, while bathing in Jersey, he saved a man from drowning and was presented with the Carnegie Hero Award.

In 1946, after only ten years on the active staff of the Hospital, he suffered a severe and catastrophic cerebral haemorrhage from the basilar artery. It was thought very unlikely that he would ever recover from this, but after many weeks of unconsciousness, with a trachaeostomy and tube feeding, he gradually recovered and with characteristic courage chose to ignore the event and return to active surgical practice. He died in Jersey whither he had retired on 8 June 1968 at the age of 51.

Oesophageal Atresia. British Surg Progress 1956.
Avoidable vascular spread in resections for Bronchial Carcinoma. Thorax 1951, 6, 250-267.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Yorkshire Post, 6 June 1968; Brit med J 1968, 2, 768. Information by Professor P R Allison].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England