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Biographical entry Gifford, Edward Harold Walter (1909 - 1985)

MRCS and FRCS 1938; MB ChB Otago 1932; FRACS 1949.

26 May 1909
Wellington, New Zealand
10 April 1985
General surgeon


Edward Harold Walter Gifford was the son of Algernon Charles Gifford, a school- teacher and astronomer, and of Susie Gifford (née Jones). He was born at Wellington, New Zealand, on 26 May 1909 and educated at Roseneath Primary School and Wellington College where he was deputy head prefect, played in the rugby team, was swimming champion and excelled as a hurdler and high jumper. He then went to Otago University where he secured a rugby blue and qualified in 1932. He was appointed house surgeon at Cook Hospital before going to England in 1934, where he held surgical posts at Mile End and West London Hospitals and at Queen Mary's Hospital in the East End. After further appointments at the Kent and Sussex Hospital and the Royal Cancer Hospital (where he recorded his indebtedness to Lawrence Abel and Cecil Joll), and fellowship courses at the Middlesex and Guy's, he took the final FRCS in 1938. He then returned to New Zealand and became surgeon superintendent at Thames Hospital, carrying out a wide range of surgery and eventually being elected FRACS in 1949.

On moving to Auckland in 1946, he started in private practice and became assistant surgeon at Auckland Hospital, eventually retiring as senior surgeon in 1974, though continuing in private until 1984. He was a driving force in the Auckland Division of the Cancer Society and did more than his share of committee work in his hospital where he developed the cancer detection centre. He was President of the Auckland Division of the Cancer Society 1976-79; President of the Cancer Society of New Zealand 1978-80; President of the Auckland Division of the New Zealand Medical Association, and president of the Auckland Wine and Food Society. In 1981 he was appointed honorary surgeon to the Queen.

A fine sportsman in his youth, he became a keen tennis player, trout fisherman and bowler in later life. He contributed much to medicine and many other fields, and was a man of unfailing courtesy who talked in measured tones and precise English. In 1938 he had met Hella Rosenthal whilst skiing in Switzerland and they married two years later. When he died on 10 April 1985 he was survived by his wife and five children.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ med J 1985, 98, 511-512].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England