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Biographical entry Girdwood, William (1913 - 1992)

MRCS and FRCS 1947; FRCS Edinburgh 1946; BSc Witwatersrand 1934; MB ChB 1937; ChM (Rand) 1943.

25 May 1913
11 August 1992
General surgeon


William Girdwood was born in Johannesburg on 25 May 1913, the son of William, a general practitioner and FRCS Edinburgh. Two uncles and his grandfather were all doctors, training in Edinburgh. After Grey High School, Port Elizabeth, William entered Witwatersrand University and won the South African Medical Association Medal for the best student on qualifying and a prize in pharmacology. After junior posts he was appointed surgeon in Johannesburg Hospital and senior lecturer in the Department of Surgery at Witwatersrand University in 1938 where he remained until 1973, apart from service in the second world war with the South African Medical Corps in East Africa, Abyssinia and North Africa. After the war he returned to Johannesburg, became President of the Transvaal Division of the South African Medical Association, and a founder member of the South African College of Surgeons.

He married in 1940 Pamela de Kock, daughter of an Edinburgh-trained ophthalmic surgeon. Their son, Robert William Girdwood FRCS, became a thoracic surgeon. William wrote extensively on tumours of the jaw and hand deformities. He was a keen sportsman, notably in athletics as a student, and later in golf and bowls, but also had time to paint in watercolours and publish a volume of his verse. He died on 11 August 1992.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England