Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Swinney, John (1912 - 1988)

MC; MRCS and FRCS 1940; MB BS Durham 1935; MD 1937; MS 1944; FRACS 1975.

12 June 1912
29 January 1988
Urological surgeon


John Swinney was born in Durham on 12 June 1912, the son of Thomas Swinney, a business man, and Hannah, née Surtees. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Durham University where he graduated MB, BS in 1935, having won the Stephen Scott Scholarship, the Sewell Prize and the Dickenson Scholarship. He was house surgeon and house physician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle (1935-36) and, after a few months in general practice, he became surgical registrar from late 1936 to 1939. He worked for George Grey Turner, F C Pybus and Norman Hodgson. He proceeded MD in 1937.

He enlisted in the RAMC in 1939 and served in France until 1940, the year he became FRCS. He served later in Eritrea, the Western Desert, Sicily and Italy, where he was awarded the Military Cross. He also had the unusual distinction of graduating MS (Hons) on active service overseas. He married Miss Thompson in 1943. He was demobilised in 1945 with the rank of Major and he was appointed assistant surgeon at Newcastle General (Municipal) Hospital. In 1946 he went to the Mayo Clinic with a Rockefeller Fellowship where he spent a year with Gershom Thompson, learning the technique of per-urethral prostatectomhy that Thompson had devised with the 'cold punch'. There followed a year in the University of Colorado before he returned to Newcastle in 1949 to take over the recently established department of prostatic surgery at the General Hospital. Swinney rapidly developed that department to cover the whole specialty of urology. He was a first class surgeon and a man of drive and vision and the demands made by practitioners resulted in the department moving, first to a larger unit at Shotley Bridge General Hospital, and later to the new Freeman Hospital, where he and his colleague, Keith Yeates, had a unit of ninety beds.

John Swinney made many original contributions to urological surgical practice. He developed a technique of urethroplasty, he introduced intravesical chemotherapy for some varieties of bladder tumours and he designed endoscopic instruments. He pioneered renal transplantation in the north of England and he devised a method of preserving donor kidneys by machine perfusion. He invited financial support for this research and the response was such that the Northern Counties Kidney Research Fund was established to manage the very large contributions. He was President of the North of England Surgical Society, the Newcastle and Northern Counties Medical Society, the Section of Urology of the Royal Society of Medicine and the European Dialysis and Transplantation Association. The University of Newcastle created a personal chair for him in 1969 and he was awarded the St Peter's Medal by the British Association of Urological Surgeons in the same year.

He retired in 1974 and he joined his elder son who farmed in Western Australia. He was soon back in urological practice, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and building up a large practice. He retired from that in 1979 and settled in Banff, Scotland. His publications included Handbook of operative urological surgery, and a chapter "Transplant rejection" in Scientific foundations of urology and papers on other urological topics. He was an active member of the "Punch Club" which met annually at the hospitals of the few elected members.

Professor Swinney was a good natured, kindly man, loyal and generous to his juniors and admired by his colleagues. He died on 29 January 1988 aged 75 and is survived by his wife, and their two sons.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1988, 296, 724; Brit J urol 1988, 62, 101].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England