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Biographical entry Gairdner, Alan Campbell (1900 - 1977)

MRCS 1927; FRCS 1928; MA Oxford, BM BCh 1925; LRCP 1927.

4 July 1900
5 June 1977
Genito-urinary surgeon and Neurosurgeon


Alan Campbell Gairdner was born in Surbiton on 4 July 1900. Both his father and grandfather were general practitioners. He was educated at Tonbridge School and, for the last six months of the first world war, served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps. After demobilisation he studied medicine at University College, Oxford, and at the London Hospital, qualifying in 1925. He held numerous house appointments at his teaching hospital where he came under the stimulating influence of Russell Howard; he obtained his FRCS in 1928.

He developed an interest in brain surgery and spent six months in Boston, USA, studying under Harvey Cushing. In 1932, soon after his return, he was appointed medical superintendent at St Georges-in-the-East Hospital, and in the same year won the London Hospital Hutchinson Triennial Prize.

In 1934, at the age of 34, he was appointed surgeon to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and the Exeter Clinical Area. During the early years and until the speciality was moved to the regional centre in Bristol, he widened his experience in neurosurgery in addition to a very busy general surgical practice. He volunteered for service in the second world war and served as surgical specialist with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel RAMC in India and West Africa.

On his return to Exeter he developed an increasing interest in genito-urinary surgery and pioneered transurethral resection of the prostate with excellent results. He was a careful and gentle surgeon with a special interest in neonatal work and he co-operated closely with his colleagues in paediatrics. Although he published little he communicated his experiences to the Surgical Club of South West England at which meetings he was a regular attender whose opinions were held in high regard. He was a man of few words who did not suffer fools gladly. His somewhat gruff exterior belied the generous and considerate man that he was.

On his retirement he continued to work in the cottage hospitals to help reduce the waiting lists. Failing health in his last few years prevented him from enjoying to the full his hobbies of farming, fishing and shooting, but he was uncomplaining and staunchly supported by his wife. They had two daughters and a son. He died on 5 June 1977, aged 76.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1977, 2, 270].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England