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Biographical entry Gowland, Humphrey Walter (1918 - 1981)

MRCS and FRCS 1949; MB ChB Otago 1941; FRACS 1953.

Dunedin, New Zealand
20 February 1981
Wellington, New Zealand
General practitioner, General surgeon and Urological surgeon


Humphrey Walter Gowland was born in 1918 in Dunedin, New Zealand, the second son of Percy Gowland, who later became the eminent Professor of Anatomy at Otago Medical School. He was educated at first in Dunedin and later at Waitaki College where he had a distinguished international athletic career. He received his undergraduate medical education at Otago, qualifying MB ChB in 1941. He represented the University in cricket and football. His first house surgeon job was at Wellington Hospital. He obtained his Primary FRCS in Dunedin at the first examination for the College to be held outside the UK. He joined the New Zealand Air Force as a medical officer in 1943 serving at Woodbourne and later at Green Island. After the war, he spent a short time in general practice and then became surgical registrar at Wellington Hospital.

In 1948 he proceeded to London to study for the Final FRCS and his old friend Dr Tuckey tells an anecdote of this time: 'In January 1948 I left for the UK and Humphrey followed towards the end of the year. I was doing medicine while Humphrey did surgery. Our wives and children shared much in common and we made a few expeditions together. Once on a non-stop trip in southern England on a double decker bus our sons both had urgent need to pass water, Humphrey led the way to the back platform and grasped his son with one hand and held on with the other while his son sprayed following cars, that son is now also a urologist'.

He obtained his FRCS in 1949 and then worked at All Saints' Hospital in London during 1952-53 where his subsequent interest in urology was much influenced by Terence Millin. Gowland returned to New Zealand in 1953, entered specialist urological private practice and was appointed to the staff of Wellington Hospital where he served until his death.

He became FRACS in 1953 and was appointed to the Dominion Committee of the Council of which he subsequently became Chairman. In 1964 the Medical Council was reconstituted and he became the representative of the RACS and served for four terms on Council. During this time, he became Chairman of the very difficult Penal Cases Committee and Chairman of Council itself in the last year of his life. He held every post of significance in medical and university circles in Wellington. Gowland retained his interest in aviation medicine and became a Wing-Commander in the Territorial Air Force acting as civilian consultant to the Civil Aviation Department and subsequently to the armed services. He became medical advisor to the Antarctic division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and was one of the few medical officers who visited Antarctica and the South Pole in person.

Gowland retained his interest in sport, especially cricket and football. He was medical officer to the rugby football union, chairing its committee on spinal injuries. He was also made a life member of the cricket association. He was a Rotarian and gave much to community service, including the setting up of a spina bifida clinic at the Wellington Hospital.

He was also concerned with postgraduate education for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and in his own speciality of urology. He had an enormous circle of friends who packed Wellington Cathedral for his memorial service. He died suddenly on 20 February 1981 aged 63, while operating at Bowen Hospital, Wellington.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ med J 1981, 93, 312 and 361].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England