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Biographical entry Williams, David Knapman (1927 - 1980)

MRCS 1951; FRCS 1959; MB BS London 1951; FRCOG 1972.

8 December 1927
29 August 1980
Obstetrician and gynaecologist


David Knapman Williams, one of two children and the only son of Colin Knapman and Elsie Williams, was born on 8 December 1927. He was educated at the Royal Commercial Travellers' School and then went to St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College where he graduated in 1951. After a first resident appointment in Southampton he spent a year as house surgeon in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at St Bartholomew's. There followed two years of National Service in Germany at Oldenburg and Berlin. On demobilisation he returned to obstetrics and gynaecology at Bristol, followed by appointments at Queen Charlotte's Hospital and the Samaritan Hospital for Women in London, Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, and then back to St Bartholomew's Hospital where he became senior lecturer in 1963. He was appointed to the consultant staff at his teaching hospital in 1966, and later to the consultant staff of Putney Hospital and St Teresa's Hospital, Wimbledon.

David was a fine clinician with good clinical judgement and was an excellent communicator with both students and patients. Not surprisingly, he quickly built up a flourishing private practice but gave generously to every aspect of his work in the National Health Service. He constantly taught his students the importance of understanding their patients and of becoming truly compassionate doctors. He wrote papers on a wide variety of subjects within his speciality, but his main interests were in problems of the menopause and the organisation of 'well woman' clinics. Outside medicine he had a love of the arts and especially music, though he only learned to play the piano in the last years of his life.

During February 1980 he suffered an extensive myocardial infarct which resulted in such severe cardiac damage that his recovery was very slow and incomplete. Two months later it became evident that the functional damage was such that only a cardiac transplant could restore him to normal health. The preliminary screening and preparation was undertaken by his cardiologist colleagues at Bart's and he was then transferred to Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, where a transplant operation was done by Terence English. He made an excellent recovery and the then President of the College, Sir Reginald Murley, took the opportunity of sending messages of congratulation to both the patient and his surgeon, it being the first occasion on which a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons had had a heart transplant by another Fellow of the College. With such promising early progress, the patient began a little clinical work but on 27 August 1980 he was re-admitted to hospital for a routine check┬Čup and died of arrhythmia during his sleep. He was a man of immense faith and courage who, in the early days of cardiac transplantation, boldly faced up to the implications of his illness and expressed his appreciation to every one of his colleagues who cared for him. When he died on 29 August 1980 he was survived by his mother and sister.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1980, 281, 753; The Times 4, 5, 6 September 1980; Daily Telegraph 3 September 1980].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England