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Biographical entry Hitchcock, Edward Robert (1929 - 1993)

MRCS and FRCS 1958; MB ChB 1952; ChM Birmingham; FRCS Edinburgh.

10 February 1929
Rhymney, Monmouthshire
29 December 1993


Edward Hitchcock ('Ted') was born in Wales at Rhymney, Monmouthshire, on 10 February 1929, the son of Edwin Robert Hitchcock and Martha Mary, née Roberts. The family soon moved to Staffordshire, where his father worked as a coal miner. Ted soon discovered Cannock Chase, which was to provide a steady supply of rabbits to be dissected on the bathroom floor! Leaving elementary school at fourteen, he worked for a while in the office of a trade union; it was at this remarkably early stage in life that he decided that he wanted to be a neurosurgeon, and specifically at the University of Birmingham. His parents were very supportive of his ambitions, and Ted managed to pass his school certificate and gain entry to the sixth form of Lichfield Grammar School.

As a medical student at Birmingham he was active in the dramatic and debating societies, and was president of the mountaineering society, leading a geological expedition to Spitzbergen in 1951. He qualified in 1952, and in the following year became a demonstrator in anatomy and took his primary Fellowship. Two years' National Service followed, after which he became a surgical registrar at University College Hospital. Still determined on a career in neurosurgery, he undertook a correspondence course which enable him to pass the final FRCS in 1958. He spent a year at the Maudsley Hospital studying neuropathology under Professor Peter Daniel from 1959 to 1960, before moving to Pennybacker's unit at Oxford and thence to Manchester as Richard Johnson's senior registrar from 1960 to 1965. From here he moved to Edinburgh, where he worked from 1965 to 1978 as senior lecturer and reader. It is interesting that the sequence of training posts he held was in units started by Hugh Cairns, Geoffrey Jefferson and Norman Dott, all of whom were influenced by Harvey Cushing, a figure Ted greatly admired. In 1978 he achieved his lifelong ambition when he was appointed to the Midland Centre for Neurosurgery and the chair at Birmingham University.

His contributions to neurosurgery included stereotactic procedures for the control of involuntary movements in Parkinson's disease and the relief of disabling pain. His controversial use of foetal brain tissue implants, in the belief that transplanted cells could continue to secrete transmitter substances, attracted interest and criticism when, in 1988, he published the results of his early clinical work with this technique. Many saw in it the promise of substantial benefit to patients but others criticised the use of aborted foetuses.

Ted was a prolific writer, being author or co-author of over 160 papers and over 30 books, contributions to books or monographs. He was a committed Christian and a courageous surgeon, who inspired confidence in his patients. In his spare time he enjoyed fly fishing and flying microlight aircraft. He had married Jill Trenowath, BA, on 19 September 1953, and they had four children - Jeremy, a software engineer, Julian, a solicitor, Timothy, a barrister, and Charlotte, a theatre nurse.

Ted collapsed and died suddenly on 29 December 1993, as he was preparing to operate. He was survived by his wife and children.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times January 1994; Daily Telegraph 13 January 1994].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England