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Biographical entry Mushin, William Woolf (1910 - 1993)

CBE 1971; MRCS 1932; FRCS 1966; FFARCS 1948; DA 1940; MB BS London 1933; MA Oxford 1946; Hon FFARACS 1959; Hon FFA (SA) 1962; Hon DSc Wales 1982.

29 September 1910
22 January 1993


William Mushin was born in London on 29 September 1910, the younger son of Moses Mushin and Jesse, née Kalmenson. He received his early education at Davenant School and his medical education was at the London Hospital Medical College, where he won the Buxton Prize in anatomy and the Anderson Prize in clinical medicine. He qualified MB BS London in 1933.

After several resident posts he was appointed anaesthetist to the Royal Dental Hospital, London. At the outbreak of the second world war he joined the Emergency Medical Service and in 1942 was appointed first assistant to Sir Robert Macintosh at the Nuffield department of anaesthetics of the University of Oxford. In 1947 he was invited to become director of the department of anaesthetics at Cardiff Royal Infirmary and six years later was given the chair of anaesthetics of the Welsh National School of Medicine at the University of Wales. He developed this department from its basic roots into a world-renowned unit by the time of his retirement in 1975. Much of his success stemmed from his administrative abilities, and his department was able to provide a service to complement and support the surgical work of the Cardiff hospitals in addition to the training and research which produced many fine anaesthetists and important publications.

Bill Mushin served on the board of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons from 1954 to 1971 and was dean of the Faculty and a member of the College Council from 1961 to 1964. He was a member of the board of management and consulting editor of the British Journal of Anaesthesia from 1947 until 1975. He was a member of Council of the Association of Anaesthetists and also its President from 1953 to 1956.

In Wales he sat on the Board of Governors of the United Cardiff Hospitals, the Court of the University of Wales and the Senate and Council of the Welsh National School of Medicine between 1956 and 1960.

His contributions to committee work were considerable, and he served as adviser in anaesthetics to the Welsh Regional Hospital Board for over twenty five years, in addition to membership of various other bodies such as the Safety of Drugs Committee and its successor the Medicines Commission from 1964 to 1983 and the Commonwealth Scholarships Committee, from 1969 to 1978.

Although he gave many eponymous lectures worldwide, perhaps the most notable were the Joseph Clover lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1955 and the John Snow lecture in 1964. He was also much in demand as a visiting professor or consultant to many universities in the USA and elsewhere.

He had a reputation for writing in a clear, direct style and his early publications with Sir Robert Macintosh - Local anaesthesia, brachial plexus (1944) and Physics for the anaesthetist (1947), as well as Anaesthesia for the poor risk and other essays (1948) and Automatic ventilation of the lungs (1959) were essential reading for all anaesthetists. In the 1960s he led studies to measure accurately the safe dosage of halothane in closed circuit anaesthesia in order to avoid repetition of fatalities which had occurred elsewhere.

Before and after his retirement in 1975 there were several distinguished tributes to Bill Mushin acknowledging his contributions to British anaesthesia. From the British Association of Anaesthetists he received the John Snow Silver Medal in 1974 and honorary membership of the society. The Royal Society of Medicine awarded him the Henry Hill Hickman Medal in 1978 and its honorary Fellowship in 1987. In 1982 he received an honorary DSc from the University of Wales. However, it was his staff in Cardiff who, on his retirement from the Welsh National School of Medicine in 1975, set up the Mushin lecture as a tribute to his many services to anaesthesia.

Bill Mushin had a strong personality that led naturally to leadership in his field, both nationally and in Wales. However, he also had a private side, and enjoyed gardening, watercolour painting, photography and, latterly, computers. In 1939 he married Betty Hannah Goldberg and they had one son and three daughters. He died on 22 January 1993, aged 82. His widow died in July 1996.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1993 306 851, with portrait; Daily Telegraph 29 January 1993].

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