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Biographical entry Murray, James Greig (1919 - 1987)

FRCS by election 1964; MB ChB Aberdeen 1942; ChM 1961; FRCS Ed 1950.

1 April 1919
22 December 1987
General surgeon


James Greig Murray was born on 1 April 1919, the son of J A F Murray and Christina, née Davidson. He was educated at Peterhead Academy and Aberdeen University where he was a scratch golfer and captained the Scottish Universities football team. His ability at football was such that on two occasions he was offered contracts by Scottish clubs, but he persisted with clinical studies, qualifying in 1942. He served as a Surgeon-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve from 1943 to 1946, surviving two dangerous incidents, the first on the sloop Milford which blasted its stern with one of its own depth charges, and the second in the destroyer HMS Highlander which struck an iceberg and had to be towed into a Canadian port. At this stage of his life he decided to pursue a career in surgery and after demobilisation he passed the FRCS Edinburgh in 1950.

In the same year Murray was appointed lecturer in the department of anatomy of University College, London, under Professor J Z Young who encouraged him in research which made a significant contribution to the understanding of peptic ulceration. From 1954 to 1956 he was clinical research fellow of the medical research Council at the Royal College of Surgeons and during this time he continued to study the control of gastric secretions and regeneration of the vagus nerve. In 1958 he was appointed senior lecturer in surgery at the University of Aberdeen and shortly afterwards transferred to an equivalent post at King's College Hospital with honorary consultant status. He gained the Master of Surgery degree from Aberdeen University in 1961 and in 1964 was appointed to a Foundation Chair of Surgery of the University of London at King's College Hospital Medical School. He was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in the same year.

In addition to his important research into the physiology of gastric secretion he had a major interest in vascular surgery and cancer. He played an important role in setting up the King's/Cambridge research project into the outcome of treatment of breast cancer. Surgeons from over forty hospitals participated and the results were published. He made many contributions to surgical literature including The scientific basis of surgery (1965), Gastric secretion: mechanism and control (1965), and After vagotomy (1969). Throughout his tenure of the Chair of Surgery he encouraged junior staff to pursue a more physiological approach to surgical research and was a splendid teacher of undergraduate and postgraduate students. He served as a member of the Senate of London University from 1973 to 1977 and as a member of South East Thames Regional Health Authority from 1977 to 1980 when he retired from his Chair of Surgery. He then returned to north east Scotland to live in Morayshire where he was able to pursue his hobbies of golf and salmon fishing on the Spey.

In 1946 he married Dr Cecilia Mitchell Park and there was one son and one daughter of the marriage. His wife, who had become a distinguished medical practitioner in her own right, pre-deceased him by a few months and the loss seemed to drain him of the will to live. He died at his home on 22 December 1987, aged 68 and is survived by a son who is a surgeon and by his daughter.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 1 January 1988; Daily Telegraph 1 January 1988; Brit med J 1988, 296, 508; Lancet 1988, 1, 194-195, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England