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Biographical entry Whittingdale, John (1894 - 1974)

MRCS 1918; FRCS 1920; MA Cambridge 1920; MB BCh 1921; DO Oxford 1924; LRCP 1918.

14 June 1894
Sherborne, Dorest
4 September 1974
Sherborne, Dorset
General practitioner, General surgeon and Medical Officer


John Whittingdale, the son of Dr John Flasby Lawrance Whittingdale, MB Cambridge, MRCS, and of Marie Whittingdale (née Jennings), was born on 14 June 1894 in Sherborne, Dorset. He was to spend most of his long life in that place. After education at Sherborne Preparatory School and Sherborne School, he was an exhibitioner to Downing College, Cambridge, in 1913. Two years later he secured a scholarship to St Bartholomew's Hospital where he won the Brackenbury Scholarship in surgery, the Matthews Duncan Prize in obstetrics and the Walsham Prize in pathology. His undergraduate work was interrupted in 1915-16 whilst he served with a British Red Cross Society Mission to Russia. After qualifying in 1918 he was house surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital, then casualty officer and house surgeon at Nottingham General Hospital, before taking the FRCS in 1920. Following a period of ill health he took the Diploma in Ophthalmology and spent a short period as an assistant in general practice at Seaton, Devon, before joining his father's practice in Sherborne. He was appointed surgeon to the Yeatman Hospital and also served as medical officer to both Sherborne boys' and girls' public schools, all appointments which he greatly valued and enjoyed.

Whittingdale was notable amongst his colleagues for his careful and painstaking observation, and his care in diagnosis, which were object lessons to all. He had a remarkable memory for people and for clinical detail. His old-world courtesy, together with his tall, double-barred and old-world bicycle, were well known in the town. He loved country pursuits and went shooting and fishing in all weathers. He was convinced that his life style and satisfying form of practice helped him to outlive most of his contemporaries, and he will be remembered as one of the last of the true general-practitioner surgeons. During wartime, virtually single-handed, he undertook a truly prodigious workload in and around Sherborne. In 1957, relatively late in life, he married Mrs Margaret Esme Scott Napier and they had one son. He died peacefully, following a myocardial infarct in his eightieth year, on 4 September 1974, in the Yeatman Hospital which he and his father had faithfully served for more than seventy years. He was survived by his wife and son, John.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1974, 4, 114; and information from Dr Rogers, a partner in Sherborne].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England