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Biographical entry Badenoch, Alex William (1903 - 1991)

MRCS and FRCS 1934; MA Aberdeen 1923; MB BCh 1927; MD 1929; ChM Aberdeen 1944.

23 June 1903
16 February 1991


Alec Badenoch was born in Banff on 23 June 1903, the son of John Alexander Badenoch, a chartered accountant, and Georgina Dingwall, daughter of a joiner. He was educated at Banff Academy and went on the Marischal College, Aberdeen, to read English Literature, but later changed to medicine. As a student he was a keen swimmer and diver, was president of the student representative council of Scotland in 1926, and qualified in 1927. He took the MD two years later and then came to London for his surgical studies, first at St Mary's Hospital and later at St Peter's Hospital for Stone, where he came under the influence of Clifford Morson, F J F Barrington, Swift Joly and R Ogier Ward, and determined that urology would become his speciality. He passed the FRCS in 1934 and spent some time in Vienna pursuing postgraduate studies efore being appointed surgeon to the Metropolitan Hospital in 1938.

He had joined the RAF Volunteer Force in 1937 and on the outbreak of war he was called up to serve in the RAF, rising to become Wing Commander in charge of surgical divisions at Rauceby, Wroughton and St Athan. It was at Wroughton that his skilful management of large numbers of casualties returning from the Normandy invasion was noticed by Sir Geoffrey Keynes, then an acting Air Vice Marshall. In spite of his busy surgical commitment he found time to take the ChM degree in 1944.

He was demobilised in 1945, appointed surgeon to St Peter's Hospital for Stone in 1946 and to St Bartholomew's the following year, a remarkable appointment since he was not a Bart's man, and was known to be an intending specialist in urology. Later in the same year he was appointed to King Edward VII Hospital for Officers and in 1950 became visiting urologist to the Royal Masonic Hospital.

He was Hunterian Professor in 1948, served on Council from 1963 to 1971, and was Chairman of the Academic Board and of the Finance Committee from 1966 to 1971. He was also elected to the Court of Patrons. He was a member of the General Medical Council from 1966 to 1972 and of the General Dental Council from 1970 to 1972.

Badenoch was President of the Hunterian Society in 1949 and Hunterian Orator in 1957. A Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries, he was also active in the Royal Society of Medicine and President of the Section of Urology. He was honorary Treasurer to the Society from 1971 to 1976, and was elected an honorary Fellow.

As a urologist he was widely respected and imitated by his juniors at St Peter's, as much for his geniality, kindness and lack of pomp as for his elegant surgical technique, especially that of retropubic prostatectomy, where his trick of suture ligature of the main arteries at the bladder neck made the operation virtually bloodless - in his hands - so much so that a generation of his assistants named these vessels after him. His book The manual of urology, first published in 1953, became a standard text and ran to two editions. Internationally he was associated with his Pull-Through technique for impassable strictures of the posterior urethra.

In 1963, towards the end of his career and through no wish of his own, he became famous when the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, developed acute on chronic retention of urine, at a time when he was already much distressed by the Profumo affair. Badenoch was called upon to perform a prostatectomy, and Macmillan made the decision to resign, although the postoperative course was entirely uneventful, and within four days Macmillan was sufficiently recovered to be able to push through the arrangements by which he would be succeeded by Alex Douglas Home. Macmillan lived for another twenty three years, ample time to regret his hasty decision.

Badenoch played an active part in establishing urology as a speciality distinct from general surgery and was a keen member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons, of which he was President from 1967 to 1969 and St Peter's medallist in 1974. He was the British delegate to the International Society of Urology between 1965 and 1972 and one of the co-founders of the European Association of Urology.

When he retired from the National Health Service in 1968 he moved to Malmesbury, Wiltshire, where he enjoyed his hobbies of gardening and music. He also contributed greatly to earlier volumes of Lives of the Fellows. In 1942 he had married Jean Brunton, an Edinburgh medical graduate who supported him in his professional life and was his assistant in practice. They had three sons, one of whom, David, is a consultant urologist.

He died on 16 February 1991 aged 87, survived by his wife and two sons, David and Alexander, his son John having predeceased him.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Independent, Daily Telegraph and Times 25 February 1991; BMJ 1991 303 465].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England