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Biographical entry Riddell, Leith Alexander (1903 - 1982)

MRCS and FRCS 1929; MB ChB Otago 1925; FRACS 1959.

5 November 1903
Wellington, New Zealand
8 September 1982
Accident and emergency surgeon, General practitioner and General surgeon


The following was published in volume 6 of Plarr's Lives of the Fellows

Born on 5 November 1903 in Wellington, New Zealand, Leith Alexander Riddell was the only son of Alexander Riddell, an engineer, and Hannah Cressall Newman. He was educated at Roseneath Primary School, Wellington, and Wellington College. Later he attended Knox College, Otago, and studied medicine there, qualifying in 1925. After resident appointments in Wellington Hospital he came to England, took the MRCS, Primary FRCS (winning the Hallett Prize) and the Final FRCS, all in 1929, before undertaking a series of postgraduate appointments including one at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, under Bevers. After two years surgical appointments in Port Elizabeth and a research appointment in Finland, he returned to New Zealand to become surgeon superintendent of the Wairoa Hospital in 1938, where he soon built up a reputation as an immensely experienced and careful general-practitioner surgeon, a role which carried him as far afield as Nauru Island.

On retiring from Wairoa in 1969 he was invited to Tasmania to take over the management of the accident and emergency department in the Napier Hospital, a position he occupied until his death on 8 September 1982 at the age of 78. A man of academic distinction and unstoppable energy he was active in amateur dramatics (he both wrote plays and acted in them) and also co-founded the Port Elizabeth Surf Life-Saving Club. He married first Miss Ostrorog in 1930 and later Enid Moss, who survived him. He had four sons and two daughters.

The following was published in volume 7 of Plarr's Lives of the Fellows

Leith Alexander Riddell was educated at Wellington College and Otago University Medical School. After a short time he came to England for surgical training. He was awarded the Hallett Prize in 1929. Little is known of his hospital appointments before his return to New Zealand in 1938 but he spent time in England, South Africa and Finland where he held a research appointment.

From 1938 until 1969 he was surgeon superintendent of the Wairoa Hospital where he had to cope with all the problems of surgery, gynaecology and orthopaedics with little assistance. Many times the hospital matron would act as anaesthetist, laboratory technician and radiologist in order to cope with major surgical emergencies. In addition to his hospital work he acted as peripatetic general practitioner to the saw-milling area in the surrounding countryside.

After his retirement at the age of 65 he moved to Tasmania where he was appointed chief of the outpatient and accident and emergency service in the town of Birnit. Following a heart attack he returned to New Zealand intending to retire to Napier but once again he was asked to take control of the accident and emergency department at Napier Hospital. Riddell was a founder of the Wairoa Little Theatre Society where he acted and wrote plays. He was an original member of the Port Elizabeth Surf Life Saving Club and in his latter days enjoyed playing bowls at Bluff Hill Club, Napier. He worked at Napier Hospital until his death on 8 September 1982, aged 78, of coronary disease and was survived by his wife, Enid.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ med J 1963, 96, 65].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England