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Biographical entry Livingstone, Gavin Hamilton (1904 - 1968)

MRCS 1926; FRCS 1930; MB BS London 1929; MA Oxford 1964; LRCP 1926.

22 December 1904
22 December 1968
ENT surgeon


Gavin Hamilton Livingstone was born at Paisley on 22 December 1904 where his father was in general practice. He was the third child in the family, and his elder brother and sister both became members of the medical profession. His brother, Dr James L Livingstone, was a consultant physician at King's College Hospital and the Brompton Hospital. His sister, Dr Isabella Louise Hamilton Livingstone, qualified in 1926 and married Dr Allen Beale Hewlett.

In 1907 the family moved to Seaford and he went to St Wilfred's Preparatory School and later to Epsom College where he took an active part in sports; he never forgot his time at Epsom and in after life he took a keen interest in the Oxford Old Epsomians.

On leaving Epsom College Livingstone entered King's College Hospital where he was a bright student and played rugby and tennis for the hospital. He qualified with the Conjoint Diploma at the age of twenty one in 1926. He was house surgeon to Sir Cecil Wakeley at King's College Hospital and later to Sir Victor Negus in the ear, nose and throat department. After leaving King's College Hospital he became Bernhard Baron Scholar at the Ferens Institute and surgical registrar to the ear, nose, and throat department at the Middlesex Hospital. In 1929 he graduated MB BS London, and in 1930 he took the FRCS, returning to King's College Hospital as registrar.

Subsequent appointments were honorary assistant surgeon to the Royal National Ear, Nose, and Throat Hospital, Golden Square, and to other hospitals in the London area.

Livingstone served in the EMS during the blitz on London, and then in 1941, because his hospitals were somewhat disorganised, he joined the staff of the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, where the newly established clinical part of the medical school was struggling to find its feet. During the remainder of the war, and for a few years afterwards, he divided his time between Oxford, London, Amersham, and High Wycombe. Soon after coming to Oxford he was mentioned in dispatches for rescuing a man who had been pinned under the wing of a blazing crashed aircraft.

His otological research work at the Ferens probably ensured that his tastes tended towards the ear, and after the war his interest in that side of his specialty increased. He was able to concentrate his work within the Radcliffe, and this made it possible for him to become more and more concerned in the problems of deafness, especially in children. In fact he made a specialty within the specialty of the reconstruction of the conduction mechanism for hearing in children suffering from congenital ear defects. In his work he established an international reputation, not only attracting a steady stream of patients from far and wide but increasingly being in demand as a speaker and writer. Many of these children had been the victims of thalidomide, and the work enabled Livingstone to obtain a grant for the Radcliffe from Lady Hoare's Fund.

A Past President of the Laryngological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, Harrison Prize-winner, and Yearsley Lecturer, Livingstone was a member of a number of other medical societies, notably of the International Collegium Otolaryngologicum, and an honorary member of the Otolaryngological Society of Australia. He had examined for the Royal College of Surgeons and had been President of the New Centre for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the City of Oxford. He was awarded the medal of Reconnaissance Fran├žaise in 1948.

In 1947 Livingstone married Felicity Jewell, and soon afterwards they moved out of Oxford to a spacious house in the country. Here they developed an interest in the breeding of pedigree pigs, and they took prizes at the Royal and other shows. The numerous trainees of the department at the Radcliffe and many visitors have reason to be grateful for their never-failing hospitality, and the garden-party which they gave every summer to the local clubs for the deaf and hard of hearing was a typical gesture, being conducted with geniality. If it were possible to sum up Livingstone's personality in three attributes these might well be energy, tolerance, and kindness.

Livingstone was Harrison Prize-winner of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1965. He was consultant adviser in otolaryngology to the United States Air Force in Britain; he was also a member of the Council for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

Gavin Livingstone died at his home at Yarnton, Oxford, on 22 December 1968, his 64th birthday. He was survived by his wife and five children. A memorial service was held at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on Thursday 30 January 1969.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 1 January 1969; Brit med J 1969, 1, 61, 323; Lancet 1969, 1, 108].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England