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Biographical entry Spencer-Bernard, John Gray Churchill (1907 - 1977)

MRCS 1933; FRCS 1940; BA Cambridge 1930; MA 1935; MD 1938; LRCP 1933.

26 May 1907
Ootacamund, India
28 March 1977
Farmer, General practitioner and Pathologist


John Spencer-Bernard was born on 26 May 1907 in Ootacamund, India, the elder son of Sir Charles and Lady Edith Spencer. His father was ICS Puisne Judge of High Court of Judicature, Madras, while his uncle A J Spencer was editor of the standard textbook Landlord and tenant. It was in 1955 in relation to an inheritance that John Spencer changed his name by deed poll to Spencer-Bernard and at the same time changed the emphasis of his career from medicine to farming.

He was educated at Marlborough College, winning the Guillebrand Prize in natural history and the leaving exhibition to be senior scholar and choral scholar at Magdalene College, Cambridge, gaining a first class in the Natural Science Tripos before going to the London Hospital Medical College as Freedom Research Scholar and winning several prizes. He enjoyed his house appointments under Sir James Walton and Charles Goulden and became a clinical assistant in pathology and also to surgical outpatients, working for and being influenced by Russell Howard, Sir Hugh Lett and Robert Hutchison (whom he described as much respected).

During the second world war he volunteered repeatedly, but was finally pronounced unfit owing to sinus trouble. He became teacher and officer in the St John Ambulance in Shrewsbury where he was assistant surgeon to the Royal Salop Infirmary. After the war he became pathologist at Frenchay Hospital, Bristol. He also spent some years in general practice.

In 1955 he inherited 850 acres in Buckinghamshire and abandoned his surgical career to farm them. However, towards the end of his life he conducted a clinic for the injection of varicose veins at Bletchley on behalf of John Hadfield, one of the surgeons at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. He was at one time Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Country Landowners' Association. Other interests included photography, piano, organ and forestry. At school and college he excelled in shooting and rowing, being stroke for Magdalene.

In 1933 he married Phyllis Corley and they had two daughters and two sons. When he died on 28 March 1977 he was survived by his wife and family.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England