Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Houghton, Gregory Reginald (1944 - 1988)

MRCS and FRCS 1973; BA Cambridge 1966; MB BCh 1970.

29 October 1944
18 September 1988
Orthopaedic surgeon


Gregory Reginald Houghton was born in Leicester on 29 October 1944, the son of L R Houghton, an engineer. Much of his childhood was spent in the Middle East where his father was working. He was educated at Oakham School, Rutland, and in 1963 went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated Bachelor of Arts with second class honours three years later. His clinical studies were at St Thomas's Hospital and he qualified in 1970, subsequently being awarded the Windsor Studentship in 1970/71 by the University of Cambridge when he returned to Cambridge as anatomy demonstrator.

He carried out his general surgical training in Oxford and having passed the FRCS in 1973 decided to move into orthopaedics in the following year. At first he worked at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford but later became registrar at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry as well as working for a year in a district general hospital in Rhyl.

He returned to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre to complete his training and during this time acquired a special interest in hand surgery, the surgery of rheumatoid arthritis, the treatment of spinal injuries and children's developmental disorders. In 1978 to 1979 he was awarded a French government scholarship to work at the Institut Calot, Berck-Plage, where he was able to pursue research into scoliosis surgery and on his return to Oxford he was promoted to clinical reader in the Nuffield department of orthopaedic surgery with special responsibility for the accident service. In 1982 as a North American Travelling Fellow he broadened his experience by visiting twenty-four orthopaedic centres in seven weeks and in the following year at the invitation of the Ponteficial Mission he established a spinal unit in Bethlehem where he carried out spinal surgery for the Save the Children Fund.

For several years he had represented the British Orthopaedic Association on the Orthopaedic Monospecialist Committee of the European Economic Community and was to have become President of that Committee later in 1988. Throughout his life he overflowed with ideas for research and, at the time of his death, he had prepared a thesis ready for submission for the Cambridge Master of Surgery degree on the subject of bone growth in children. He had published work on low back pain, the use of inflatable splints and the ultrastructure of the growth plate. He was one of the originators of the "Isis" moiré scanning device for investigating spinal conditions which has since been adopted throughout the world and was an enthusiastic teacher at undergraduate ward round and tutorials; his teaching sessions in the growth clinic and scoliosis clinic were well attended by students and postgraduates.

His final appointment in 1984 was as consultant and honorary lecturer in orthopaedic surgery at Oxford University and a part-time consultant in the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre. His outside interests were in music and the collection of butterflies which he shared with his wife, Helene, who is French. They had two sons, Marc and Christophe, and a daughter, Maguelone.

Tragically he was killed on 18 September 1988 while returning from a restaurant to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre to take an emergency call. He was on the cycle path accompanied by his wife riding behind him when he was struck by a motor car and died shortly afterwards, aged 43. The car driver admitted liability and in addition to a twenty-one month jail sentence was disqualified from driving for five years. The high expectations of his career were reflected in the subsequent award of over £900,000 to his family in compensation.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1988, 297, 1399; Lancet, 1988, 2, 975; Daily Telegraph 13 October 1988; Emmanuel College Magazine 1988, 71, 102; The Times 15 July 1991].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England