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Biographical entry Giles, Geoffrey Reginald (1936 - 1992)

MRCS and FRCS 1964; MB ChB Manchester 1960; MD 1968.

17 December 1936
Coventry, Warwickshire
2 April 1992
General surgeon and Transplant surgeon


Geoff Giles was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, on 17 December 1936. He was educated at Bablake School and then obtained a major scholarship to enter the University of Manchester Medical School, qualifying from there MB ChB in 1960. After spending two years in junior appointments he commenced his initial academic studies as a demonstrator in physiology and enjoyed the experience of teaching undergraduates. This was followed by a series of training posts as a surgical registrar during which he obtained the FRCS in 1964. He was then appointed lecturer in surgery at the Leeds General Infirmary under the tutelage of that doyen of British surgery, Professor J C Goligher. In 1966 he married Patricia Hoey and they had three sons, Mathew, Benjamin and Simon, one of whom was a medical student when his father died. Giles was awarded an MD Manchester in 1968 for a thesis describing the relationship between gastric secretion and the lower oesophagus. He then decided to pursue his interest in hepatic disorders by studying for two and a half years in the United States. Initially in Boston with Professor W V McDermott of the Harvard Medical School, he became well versed in the management of portal hypertension, and he later went to work in the transplantation unit in Colorado under the supervision of Dr Tom Starzl, the then leading proponent of liver transplantation in the USA. This was an extremely active and successful unit and Giles gained extensive experience in both the clinical and research aspects of renal, hepatic, cardiac and pancreatic transplantation.

Following his return to the UK in 1971, Giles was appointed senior lecturer in surgery in the University department and played a leading rĂ´le in establishing the renal transplant unit at St James' Hospital in Leeds, followed shortly by the liver transplant unit, only the third such centre in Britain at that time. It rapidly became evident that both these ventures were very successful and Giles was appointed as the first Professor of Surgery based at St James' Hospital in 1973. His remarkable capacity for leadership, organisation and hard work, combined with the quality of his teaching, ensured that the reputation of the department became very high in a short period of time. Hitherto St James' had dwelt in the shadow if its prestigious neighbour, the General Infirmary, but following Giles' appointment this situation was almost reversed and his department achieved an international reputation as a centre of excellence, widely respected especially in America and Europe. He wrote more than 180 surgical papers and was co-author of a popular textbook, Essential surgical practice, published in 1982.

Although extremely modest and initially somewhat reserved, Giles had a keen sense of humour and was a staunch and valued friend. He was a popular member of the Moynihan Chirurgical Club, the members of which rapidly appreciated his sterling qualities. He was a keen fisherman of trout and salmon and a great supporter of both the Medics' and Dentists' Football Club and the Student Rugby Club. When time permitted he was a knowledgeable gardener and an avid reader. His able and commonsense approach to problems was well recognised and he was a member of many influential committees, including the Central Research and Development Committee of the Department of Health.

The premature death of Geoff Giles in mid-career on 2 April 1992 at the age of 55 deprived British surgery of one of its leaders, Leeds University of an outstanding Professor and St James' Hospital of a pioneering surgeon who had contributed so much to its reputation. At his memorial service in a crowded St Edmund's Church on 9 May several close friends and colleagues, including the Vice-Chancellor of the University, paid moving and eloquent tributes to the qualities of this remarkable man.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1992 305 360-1; Daily Telegraph 10 April 1992].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England