Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Martin, Peter Guy Cutlack (1908 - 1986)

VRD; FRCS ad eundem 1959; MB BCh Cambridge 1932; MCh 1946; FRCS Ed 1936; FRACS 1977.

18 October 1986
General practitioner, General surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Born in Yorkshire in 1908, the son of a civil engineer, Peter Martin was educated at Malvern College, before studying medicine at Queen's College, Cambridge (1925-28), and Manchester, qualifying in 1932. In the next four years he held a series of junior appointments in the Manchester area, in these years being particularly influenced by Professor E D Telford and Professor John Morley. In 1936 he obtained his Edinburgh Fellowship, and in the following year, in which he married, he settled in general practice in Chelmsford with an appointment as surgeon to Chelmsford Hospital. A keen member of the RNVR, he was called up in 1939, serving as surgical specialist in the Middle East, in England. and latterly in the Far East. He was demobilised in 1945 with the rank of Surgeon-Commander.

On returning to civilian life he gave up general practice, but continued his appointment as a surgeon on the staff of Chelmsford Hospital, and it was there, in 1946 that he performed one of the first successful replacements of a segment of artery with a segment of autologous vein, in a young man with an injury to his popliteal artery. Prior to this success Peter was already interested in vascular surgery, at that time a relatively new specialty, principally concerned with the place of sympathectomy in various conditions, in particular intermittent claudication, and in 1947 he was appointed as a part-time senior lecturer in the department of surgery at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, entrusted by Professor Ian Aird with the responsibility of forming a vascular surgery unit. Later on he was appointed as consultant in vascular surgery to Manor House Hospital, but it was the former hospitals, Chelmsford and Hammersmith, which formed the core of his surgical life.

A general surgeon with wide interests, as evidenced by his development of the Martin pump, for a period widely used in blood-transfusion, Peter played a full role in the surgical work at Chelmsford, where he was held in great esteem not only for his surgical skills, but also for his kindness and wise judgement. But increasingly vascular surgery became his predominant interest. He was one of the major figures in the development of vascular surgery in the United Kingdom. From his unit at Hammersmith came important papers establishing the association of aortic aneurysm with certain blood groups and with peptic ulceration, but Peter's main contributions were not in such academic aspects of surgery. A capable operator, who preferred simple to complex techniques, essentially practical in his outlook, with an intuitive rather than analytical approach to surgical problems, he made valuable contributions to the operative treatment of aortic aneurysms, but without doubt his most significant contribution was his establishment of the value of the restoration of the flow in the deep femoral vessels by the operation of profundaplasty.

Though not a prolific writer, in addition to a number of important papers Peter edited and largely contributed to two widely read books on vascular surgery. Together with Sol Cohen, the first President, Frank Cockett and James Gillespie he was closely concerned with the foundation, in 1967, of the Vascular Society, of which he was the second President. He attracted both to Hammersmith and to Chelmsford not only many international visitors, but also a succession of able young registrars, especially from Australia. An outstanding ambassador for British surgery, he was frequently invited to lecture abroad in America, Australia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He was an honorary member of surgical societies in many countries, received an honorary Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and in 1980 he was invited to deliver the Le Riche Memorial Lecture in Heidelberg.

A man of splendid physique, Peter was in all senses of the word a large man. Unfailingly gentle and courteous, imperturbable, a tower of strength in all difficulties, capable, whether in the operating theatre or the cockpit of his yacht, of imparting his own self-confidence to others, a man with an enormous gusto for life, Peter had a host of friends in many countries and from all walks of life. It is a reflection of the affection in which he was held by his juniors that following his retirement the Australian surgeons who had worked with him in this country invited, at their expense, him and his wife to visit Australia. Following his retirement in 1973 Peter spent several months teaching in Northern India and Iraq, but with increasing leisure he had more time to devote to his favourite pastime, sailing. An amateur sailor of great ability and resource, over the years he owned a series of yachts which he kept at Burnham-on-Crouch, where he was well-known, and from where he cruised widely to South Brittany, Eire and the Baltic. In his later years he moved to Felsted, where he died on 18 October 1986 predeceased by his wife, Mimosa, by some months. He was survived by his two sons and his grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1986, 293, 1314 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England