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Biographical entry Millin, Terence John (1903 - 1980)

MRCS 1929; FRCS 1930; MB BCh, BAO Dublin 1927; MCh 1931; FRCSI 1928; Hon FACS 1952; Hon FRACS 1952; LRCP 1929.

9 January 1903
9 January 1903, County Down
3 July 1980
Urological surgeon


Terence Millin, internationally famous for the introduction of the operation of retropubic prostatectomy, was born in Helen's Bay, County Down, on 9 January 1903. He was educated at St Andrew's College and Trinity College, Dublin, gaining a Kidd Entrance Exhibition in 1921. As an undergraduate he was unusually distinguished both academically and on the sporting field. Initially he studied mathematics and became a foundation scholar in this subject before transferring to the medical school where he won numerous prizes including the much sought after Cunningham Medal in anatomy. He was Captain of Dublin University Rugby Football Club and in 1925 he was capped for Ireland in the match against Wales.

He qualified in 1927. After winning the Surgical Travelling Prize and gaining both his Fellowship and Mastership, Millin moved to London where in due course he was appointed Surgeon to All Saints' Hospital, the Royal Masonic Hospital and the Chelsea Hospital for Women. He rapidly built up a large and successful practice and gained an international reputation. He was an early enthusiast for endoscopic transurethral resection of the prostate, but in December 1945 he published in the Lancet his technique of retropubic prostatectomy, an operation which rapidly became widely accepted and led to his name becoming known to surgeons throughout the world. He was in great demand abroad to demonstrate his technique and large numbers of overseas colleagues came to London to watch him operate. Although his name is best known for his operation of prostatectomy, Millin also contributed much original work on the urological aspects of gynaecology and the treatment of bladder carcinoma. During the 1940's and 50's he worked prodigiously long hours.

He received numerous international honours including the St Peter's Medal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons in 1951, Honorary Fellowship of the American College of Surgeons in 1952 and later of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and corresponding membership of the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons in 1953. In 1975 he was elected the first honorary member of the Irish Society of Urology and in 1978 the Section of Urology of the Royal Society of Medicine presented him with honorary membership in Dublin. In the same year he was elected an honorary member of the New York Section of the American Urological Association. In 1979, the year before he died, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland inaugurated the Millin Lecture.

During his years in London, Millin maintained his Irish links being Vice-President of the London-Irish Football Club and always ready to advise young Irish surgeons working in England. It was therefore no great surprise when he decided to return to Ireland, was elected to the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and became President in 1963. During his three year term of office he inaugurated a major fund raising campaign and started the modern building programme of the College.

As befitted a one-time mathematical scholar he was an outstandingly clear-thinking man and had great felicity with the spoken word. He was a brilliant raconteur and in great demand as an after-dinner speaker where his stories were always in good taste and apposite to the company.

He retired early from active surgery and took up farming in Doneraile, County Cork, where he became an expert on soil chemistry. Sadly his last year was spent in a great deal of pain which, with the help of his wife, Molly, he bore with great courage. He died on 3 July 1980, aged 77 years, and was survived by his wife and two daughters, Deidre and Zoe.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1980, 2, 234, 398; Lancet 1980, 2, 270-271;The Times 18 and 21 July 1980 (with an appreciation by Mr David Wallace)].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England