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Biographical entry Tuckwell, Sir Edward George (1910 - 1988)

KCVO 1975; MRCS 1936; FRCS 1939; BA Oxford 1932; BM BCh 1936; MA 1949; MCh 1949.

12 May 1910
Godalming, Surrey
27 December 1988
General surgeon


Edward George Tuckwell, the third of eight children and the eldest son of Edward Henry Tuckwell, a stockbroker, and of Annie Clarice (née Sansom), was born on May 12, 1910, at Godalming, Surrey. He was educated at Hillside School, Godalming; Charterhouse School, and Magdalen College, Oxford. He then went to St Bartholomew's Hospital and, unusually for those days, married Phyllis Corthorpe Regester in 1934. On qualifying in 1936 he was house surgeon to the Surgical Professorial Unit before becoming demonstrator in pathology. He passed the final FRCS in May 1939 and shortly after the outbreak of war, when most of Bart's had been evacuated to sector hospitals, he became chief assistant to Harold Wilson in the rather attenuated hospital at West Smithfield. He joined the RAMC in 1941 as a surgical specialist with the rank of Major, serving for some time in the UK before commanding a field surgical unit in the Normandy landings shortly after D-Day. After the defeat of Germany he joined the 14th Army in Burma and Sumatra as officer in charge of a hospital surgical division, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

On demobilisation he returned to Bart's as a chief assistant, and then as first assistant, to the Surgical Professorial Unit. He recorded his indebtedness then to Sir James Paterson Ross and to Michael Boyd though the latter shortly moved to Manchester as Professor of Surgery, in succession to Robert Morley. Tuckwell's original intention was to seek a regional hospital appointment; but the departure of Boyd, and two other members of the Bart's surgical staff in rapid succession, led to unexpected staff vacancies, one of which he secured. He was later appointed consultant surgeon to the Royal Masonic Hospital, as well as to King Edward VII Hospital for Officers and the King Edward VII Convalescent Home at Osborne, Isle of Wight. An essentially practical general surgeon he had an early interest in surgery of the sympathetic nervous system, and especially in splanchnic neurectomy for hypertension until the availability of effective drugs rendered that operation redundant. He published little but was Dean of St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College from 1952 to 1957 and a governor of the hospital from 1952. He also examined in pathology for the primary FRCS and for the Conjoint.

He was always extremely punctual and was a rapid operator. In 1954 he achieved considerable fame when he emerged unscathed from a high court case Hatcher v Black and Others. Together with one of his physician colleagues, he was sued for alleged negligence in connection with a partial thyroidectomy operation at Bart's in 1952. Although one recurrent laryngeal nerve had been damaged, and the patient had not been specifically warned of this possibility, after a sympathetic summing up by Lord Justice Denning the jury found in favour of all the defendants (The Times, Law reports 28 June to 1 July 1954).

In 1964 he became Surgeon to the Royal Household; Surgeon to HM the. Queen in 1969, and Serjeant-Surgeon from 1973 to 1975, when he was appointed KCVO. His first wife Phyllis, by whom he had two sons, Chris and Gareth (MB BS London 1971), and a daughter, Anne, died in May 1970. After her death he founded the Phyllis Tuckwell Memorial Hospice in Farnham and served as its President until his death. In the following year he married Mrs Barbara Gordon (née Jameson), the widow of Major AJ Gordon. Outside his professional work he was especially interested in travel, shooting and gardening. When he died at his home on 27 December 1988 he was survived by his second wife and the children of his first marriage.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet 1989, 1,171 with portrait; The Times 28 December 1988; Daily Telegraph 31 December 1988].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England