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Biographical entry Drew, Charles Edwin (1916 - 1987)

MVO (later LVO) 1952; VRD 1961; MRCS 1941; FRCS 1946; MB BS London 1941; LRCP 1941.

15 December 1916
31 May 1987
General surgeon and Thoracic surgeon


Charles Edward Drew, eldest son of Edwin Frank Drew, an accountant, and of Eunice (née Lloyd-Davies) was born in Lambeth on 15 December 1916. He was educated at an elementary school in Stockwell and at Westminster City School and then secured an open scholarship in 1935 to King's College, London, and Westminster Hospital Medical School where he won the Bulkeley Prize in 1938. After graduating in 1941 and doing his first resident appointments he joined the Navy in 1942 as Surgeon-Lieutenant RNVR. The following year his ship was sunk in the Mediterranean whilst he was below deck tending the wounded and he escaped by swimming out through a porthole. He was eventually picked up and continued his service until the end of the war, transferring to the RNR with the rank of Surgeon-Commander.

Drew then became successively casualty officer, senior resident medical officer, senior surgical registrar and chief assistant at the Westminster Hospital where he worked with G T Mullallay and Clement Price Thomas, and then surgical chief assistant at the Brompton Hospital before appointment as consultant surgeon to the Westminster and St George's Hospitals. It was in 1952, during the early years of his consultant life, that he assisted his senior colleague Sir Clement Price Thomas with the pneumonectomy operation on King George VI for lung carcinoma. Some years later he was to do a lobectomy on Sir Clement himself for the same disease.

Charles Drew was a highly original thinker who was occasionally out of step with his less enterprising colleagues. Although somewhat handicapped by doing too much of his early work in one of the smaller centres, he was the first to use profound hypothermia for open cardiac surgery and did many successful operations by this technique. He published important papers on the clinical use of hyperbaric oxygen and on heart transplantation and was appointed consultant in thoracic surgery to the Royal Navy, honorary consultant in thoracic surgery to the Army, and honorary consultant thoracic surgeon, King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst. At the Royal College of Surgeons he was Hunterian Professor in 1961, Price Thomas Medallist in 1962; member of the Court of Examiners from 1970 to 1976, and Tudor Edwards Lecturer in 1961. He also served on the editorial committee of the British journal of surgery.

A good sportsman throughout his life, he was fond of sailing and water polo in his early days; played cricket and soccer and rowed for London University, later becoming a competent salmon and trout fisherman and a keen gardener and crossword enthusiast. In 1950 he married Maureen Pittaway, a sister in the Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service and they had one son and a daughter. After retirement from his hospitals he developed carcinoma of the pharynx. There was a satisfactory initial response to surgery and irradiation but early recurrence of the disease. When he died at home on 31 May 1987 he was survived by his wife and children. A memorial service was held in the chapel at Westminster Hospital.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Daily Telegraph 4 June 1987].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England