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Biographical entry Horsley, John Woodward (1906 - 1981)

MRCS and FRCS 1939; MB ChB Otago 1932.

Auckland, New Zealand
30 May 1981
General surgeon, Medical Officer and Obstetrician


John Woodward Horsley was born in Auckland in 1906. His father, Arthur Horsley, was a chemist in downtown Auckland at the turn of the century. John used to say that he and his mother, Alice, spanned 100 years of medical practice as she was the third woman to graduate from Otago Medical School and the first woman to practice medicine in Auckland in 1900. It is recorded that John and his three sisters would frequently be seen doing their school homework in the car while mother was visiting patients or giving an anaesthetic. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School where he excelled in sport, playing for the first XV and the cricket XI. Later at Otago University, he obtained his rugby blue. He qualified MB ChB in 1932 and was house surgeon to Auckland Hospital for the next two years after which he spent some months doing locums in Tauranga and Waikato before proceeding to England for postgraduate study. He obtained his FRCS in 1939 and served as a surgeon in the EMS throughout the second world war at Shoreham-on-Sea where he met an obstetric registrar, Dr Theo McAlpine, whom he married in 1944.

At the end of the war the couple spent a few months in Auckland before settling in Hamilton in 1946. He operated for some fifteen years at Cassel Hospital conducting a busy obstetric practice as well as general practice responsibilities where he was universally liked and respected by patients and colleagues. There was many a time when he would visit a sick, elderly person and on finding them cold, hungry and lonely would turn on the heater, make a cup of tea and sit and talk to them. During this time, he was medical officer to the Post Office and the railways and the Waikato Racing Club, the Boxing Association and the Wrestling Association of which he was a life member.

He gave up operative surgery in 1961 but continued as medical officer at Fairholm, an outlying subsidiary of Waikato Hospital until shortly before his death. During his last two years, he became progressively ill but preserved an uncomplaining stoicism. He died at his home on May 30 1981 at the age of 74. His wife, Theo, and their children, Joan, Ruth and Campbell survived him.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ med J 1981, 93, 234].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England