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Biographical entry McKissock, Sir Wylie (1906 - 1994)

OBE 1946; Kt 1971; MRCS 1930; FRCS 1932; MB BS London 1931; MS 1933; Hon FFR; Hon DSc; LRCP 1930.

26 October 1906
Staines, Middlesex
3 May 1994


Wylie McKissock was born in Staines, Middlesex, on 26 October 1906, the son of Alexander Cathie McKissock, a linoleum manufacturer and author who went under the pseudonym of Alan Graham, and his wife Rae, née Wylie. He went to the City of London School and King's College before winning the Laking Memorial prize and entrance scholarship to St George's Hospital. Four years after qualifying he decided on his future career in neurosurgery and in 1936 he travelled to Stockholm to visit Professor Olivecrona. He was much impressed by his ability to locate accurately lesions in the brain, which was due almost entirely to the skill of his radiologist. On returning to London he was appointed neurological surgeon to the Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases, which enabled him to build up a first class department of neuroradiology.

In 1937 he was awarded a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship which allowed him to meet Gilbert Horrax at the Lahey Clinic in Boston and also visit many other neurosurgical centres in North America. He developed a keen sense of judgement and produced a pattern of operating procedures which had to be strictly adhered to. It was almost revolutionary, and he drove his trainees into a similar frame: they all admired him for it, even though following his technique was incredibly hard work. In his training he was influenced by Sir Stewart Duke-Elder, Charles Donald and Lionel Colledge. He held appointments at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, and at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen Square.

During the war he was surgeon-in-charge at the neurological centre at Leavesden, the Atkinson Morley Hospital and the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Later he became consultant to the Royal Navy, the army and the Royal Air Force. He received the OBE in 1946 in recognition of his untiring work treating head injuries during the Blitz. His ability as an administrator was no less dynamic than his surgery, and he virtually controlled the development of his specialty along the entire south coast down into south west England.

McKissock published many papers and chapters but one of his contributions related to the treatment of small aneurysms by using angiography and hypothermia to localise and obliterate the lesions which were causing a very high mortality.

In 1934 he married Rachel Jones and they had one son and two daughters. On his retirement he received his Knighthood, and was also President of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons. He left London for the west coast of Scotland when he retired - he had always hated going abroad. He reflected his attitudes when he wrote of his recreations as 'wine, food, gardening, and antagonism to bureaucracy'.

He died on 3 May 1994.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 11 May 1994].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England