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Biographical entry Martin, Philippa Parry (1897 - 1981)

MRCS 1921; FRCS 1930; MB BS London 1922; MS 1932; LRCP 1921.

3 April 1897
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
22 January 1981
Ophthalmic surgeon


Philippa Parry Pughe was born on 3 April, 1897, at Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, the only daughter of Canon Thomas St John Pughe. She attended Toowoomba High School until the age of 10 when her parents brought her to England. She visited Rome and Venice where she remembered the Campanile in ruins. After St Felix School, Southwold, and a year in Switzerland she entered Newnham College, Cambridge, but left after three weeks because she found the atmosphere too like school. She was determined to study medicine and went to University College and University College Hospital where she qualified in 1921. The next year she graduated with honours in surgery and whilst house surgeon at UCH she met the consultant surgeon Edward Kenneth Martin (qv) and they married at St Peter's, Eaton Square, in 1923.

After the birth of three daughters Philippa Martin passed the Final FRCS in 1930 and then the MS, being the third woman to obtain this degree in London. She was, in 1936, the first woman to be appointed as Hunterian Professor at the College, her topic being The effect on the eye of radium used for the treatment of malignant disease in the neighbourhood. She was appointed ophthalmic registrar at University College Hospital and then consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Maida Vale Hospitals and the Western Ophthalmic Hospital which later joined the St Mary's Group and she became Chairman of the Joint Hospital Board for several years. In 1939 she was called up in the Emergency Medical Service as a general surgeon but later returned to the Western Ophthalmic Hospital. She was active in the Medical Women's Federation and served as Chairman of the Journal Committee of the BMA for 20 years.

Philippa possessed consummate skill as an eye surgeon, and indeed removed cataracts from her own 79-year-old mother who was then able to continue her gros point and, in the summer, petit point until she was 97. Her marriage to E K Martin was supremely happy. They were both Fellows of University College which may have been unique at that time. When he died at the age of 96 they had travelled extensively together in Europe. Their last holiday was a visit to Italy in 1975 with her husband driving there and back at the age of 91.

Mrs Martin was very proud of her daughters, two of whom became doctors and the third an architect. She was especially interested in the young and many students expressed indebtedness to her. In pre-NHS days she helped at her husband's outpatients clinics by writing his notes and letters. After his death, as a tribute to the excellent nursing care her husband had received she created the Martin Further Education Fund for Nurses. She died at her home in London, on 22 January 1981, survived by her three daughters.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1981, 282, 1553; The Times 24 January 1985].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England