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Biographical entry Organe, Sir Geoffrey Stephen William (1908 - 1989)

Kt 1968; MRCS 1933; FRCS by election 1965; MB BCh Cambridge 1937; MD 1941; DA 1937; FFARCS 1948; Hon FFARACS 1957; LRCP 1933.

25 December 1908
Madras, India
7 January 1989


Geoffrey Organe was born in Madras on 25 December 1908, the elder son of the Reverend William E H Organe KiH, a missionary, and his wife Alice, née Williams, the daughter of a mining engineer. His early education was at Taunton School before going to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he was honorary secretary and later president of the College Athletic Club. His clinical studies were at the Westminster Hospital and having joined the United Hospitals Athletic Club he was honorary secretary and later captain of the club. This interest persisted throughout his life and in later years he was appointed president.

He qualified in 1933 and after house appointments at his teaching hospital spent some time in general practice before deciding to embark on a career in anaesthesia. His first appointment was as resident anaesthetist at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and he passed the DA in 1937; subsequently he was house anaesthetist and the first anaesthetic registrar at the Westminster Hospital in 1938-1939. At about this time, aged 28, he underwent a Paul-Mikulicz operation for cancer of the colon and although this operation would now be considered inadequate he survived for over 50 years. After the operation Sir Ivan Magill gave him £100 and sent him on a holiday to recover. He and his wife went to the Canary Islands on a banana boat and on his return the fistula was almost healed. He was appointed honorary anaesthetist to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in 1938 and after the outbreak of war was appointed consultant anaesthetist to the Westminster Hospital. He was considered unfit for the armed forces but throughout the war years served in the Emergency Medical Service and at Westminster Hospital. There he remained throughout his professional life, later in 1964 becoming foundation Professor of Anaesthesia. He had a great interest in research and passed the MD Cambridge in 1941 for a thesis on the value of nitrous oxide, oxygen and intermittent intravenous thiopentone for operations not requiring much muscle relaxation. He was appointed honorary secretary of the Medical Research Council's anaesthetics sub-committee of the committee on traumatic shock, serving from 1941 until 1947 and was also honorary secretary of the anaesthetics section of the committee of analgesia in midwifery. When the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons was formed in 1948 he was a member of the Board and continued in office until 1972. He was Dean of the Faculty of Anaesthetists from 1958 to 1961 and during these years served on the Council of the College. He examined for both the DA and FFARCS and although he had a reputation for expecting a high standard from candidates he had a friendly and courteous approach. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1965. He was President of the Section of Anaesthesia at the Royal Society of Medicine from 1949 to 1950 and was made an honorary Fellow of the Society in 1974. He was President of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland from 1954 to 1957 and in 1972 was awarded the John Snow Silver Medal of the Association; he was also President of the South West Metropolitan Society of Anaesthetists from 1957 to 1959 and Joseph Clover Lecturer. Shortly after the war he studied the use of tubocurarine in anaesthesia and in 1946 published an important paper in the Lancet describing his experiences with this drug, which he had received himself on several occasions. Other publications were on the occurrence of convulsions after the administration of local anaesthesia and the use of decamethonium iodide as a muscle relaxant. He was appointed civilian consultant in anaesthesia to the Royal Navy and later consultant in anaesthesia to the Ministry of Health. He played an important role in the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists and having served as its first secretary and treasurer from 1955 to 1964 was elected President from 1964 to 1968, presiding over the World Congress of Anaesthesiology in London in 1968, the year in which he received his Knighthood - only the third anaesthetist to be so honoured.

In later life he travelled extensively, lecturing overseas for both the British Council and the World Health Organisation. Altogether he visited over 40 countries, many of them in the developing world. He retired to Seaton in Devon and continued to enjoy his hobbies of photography and gardening. He is remembered for his unfailing kindness, courtesy and willingness to help those in need.

He married Margaret (Peggy) Davies in 1935 and they had one son, Michael and two daughters, Janet who has qualified as a doctor and Sally who is a physiotherapist. He died on 7 January 1989, aged 80.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1989, 298, 248-249 with portrait; The Times 12 January 1989; Lancet 1989, 1, 228; Anaesthesia 1989, 44, 461-462 with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England