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Biographical entry Gardham, Arthur John (1899 - 1983)

MRCS 1921; FRCS 1924; MB BS London 1923; MS 1926; LRCP 1921.

4 November 1899
Leytonstone, Essex
11 March 1983
General surgeon


Arthur John Gardham, the second son of Arthur and Elizabeth Gardham (née Phelps), was born at Leytonstone, Essex on 4 November 1899. He was educated at Bancroft's School, University College and University College Hospital, London, but his studies were interrupted by the first world war when his father, conniving in the falsification of his birth certificate, enabled him at the age of seventeen to serve in the RNVR as a Surgeon Probationer Sub-Lieutenant. He was attached to HMS Torrid in October 1917 escorting Atlantic convoys and was torpedoed off the Needles. When demobilised in 1918 he returned to his studies and took the Conjoint Diploma in 1921, graduating two years later. After resident appointments he took the FRCS in 1924 and won the Pearce Gould Travelling Scholarship in 1925. In the same year he went as assistant to Professor Clairmont in the Kantonspital, Zurich. On returning to Britain he took the MS in 1926 and became surgical registrar, and later assistant director of the surgical professorial unit at University College Hospital under Professor C Choyce, eventually to be appointed honorary surgeon there and also surgeon to Hampstead General Hospital. He was a Hunterian Professor in 1939 and declared a special interest in cancer of the mouth, a subject on which he contributed to Grey Turner's Operative surgery, 3rd edition, and to the surgical journals. It was at the suggestion of Sir Heneage Ogilvie that, with D R Davies, he was joint editor of The operations of surgery published in two volumes in 1963 and 1969. During the second world war, when UCH was largely evacuated to hospitals in Hertfordshire under the Emergency Medical Service, he remained in London to organise the hospital there. In 1940 he joined the RAMC and was OC surgical division at a hospital in Bath, later becoming consulting surgeon to the 14th Army and to Eastern Command, India, with the rank of Brigadier. He was mentioned in despatches. After demobilisation in 1945 he returned to University College Hospital and to private practice.

During a meeting at the Royal College of Surgeons early in 1948 he spoke with sincerity, force and feeling against the proposed nationalisation of medicine. He was a founder member of the Fellowship for Freedom in Medicine and served on its executive for several years. He was a member of the Court of Examiners of the RCS from 1945 to 1951, and he also examined in surgery for the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and London. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, he was President of the Surgical Section in 1963 to 1964. He was a Fellow of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland and a member of its Council from 1957 to 1960, and was also a Fellow of University College, London. He had been associated with the Emergency Bed Service of King Edward's Hospital Fund for London from its foundation in 1938.

A staunch believer in independent medicine he often said that all the most useful things he taught his students were learnt in private practice and he often had them as paid assistants at his private operations. He was a careful operator and a superb teacher who preferred to work with small groups. His upright, somewhat military figure, and his resonant voice, gave him a notable presence and he established excellent rapport with his patients and their relatives. He was a member of the Surgical Travellers' Club and regularly attended practically all of their meetings at home and abroad. But he had many interests outside surgery: as a member of the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds he would often slip away from London to spend Saturday in the saddle; he was the hunt's joint honorary secretary from 1967 to 1970. He extended these activities after retirement when he lived at his farm on Exmoor, becoming master of the hunt, a churchwarden of Oare parish (the Lorna Doone church), and also taking an active interest in local affairs. He married Dr Audrey Carr, a UCH graduate and former house surgeon to Wilfred Trotter, who later became a general practitioner in St John's Wood, in 1936. Of their three children, a son Richard is a general surgeon; one daughter is a consultant child psychiatrist and the other a community paediatrician - the entire family of five were therefore members of the medical profession. When he died on 11 March 1983 he was survived by his wife and children.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 24 August 1983; Brit med J 1983, 286, 1068 and 1223, 1361; Lancet 1983, 1, 1116-7].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England