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Biographical entry Pegington, John (1934 - 1994)

MRCS and FRCS 1965; MB BCh Wales 1959.

10 September 1934
Pontypool, Gwent
28 July 1994
Anatomist and General surgeon


John Pegington was born at Pontypool, Gwent, on 10 September 1934, the only child of Arthur John Pegington, a building contractor, and Edith May, née Pearce, the daughter of a cobbler. He recalled growing up surrounded by coal mining and music and, after education at Pentnewynydd Primary School and Monmouth Grammar School, he went to the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff and graduated in 1959. After house appointments in medicine, surgery and paediatrics in Cardiff he spent two years doing his National Service with the RAMC in Aden. On returning home he worked as surgical house officer to Owen Owen, who made a lifelong impression on him at Bridgend Hospital. He then took the primary FRCS course at the College and, having previously been rather put off anatomy as a medical student, was so inspired by the teaching of Professors Last and Stansfield that this sowed the seeds of his ultimate interest. After further house officer appointments at Cardiff and St James's Hospital, Balham, during which time he passed the final FRCS, he spent four years in Libya as surgeon to an oil company's hospital in Tripoli. He often remarked that it was only a revolution which caused him to leave Libya in 1970.

After returning to Pontypool and doing some locum consultant jobs, depression drove him to apply for the post of assistant professor in the department of anatomy at the University of Ottawa. Having passed the North American Board examinations he was appointed associate professor and then acting head of the department in 1976. By then he had become intensely interested in medical education and was an outstanding teacher; indeed, for five successive years he was voted the best pre-clinical teacher in Ottawa. But personal problems and a yearning for home brought him to London in 1979, as senior lecturer in anatomy at University College. Somewhat daunted by the strength of anatomy research there, and concerned about the teaching of topographical anatomy, he designed what he felt to be an appropriate course for medical students, and he also taught in the accident and emergency department of University College Hospital. Thus did he develop a vocational type of training course for surgeons on the basis of his Canadian experience.

In 1987 he was appointed Samuel Augustine Courtauld Professor of anatomy at University College and Middlesex Hospital Schools of Medicine. Before and subsequent to this appointment he had examined for the primary FRCS in London and Edinburgh. He also examined in a number of other London medical schools as well as in the Universities of Malaya, Hong Kong, Muscat, Nairobi and Zimbabwe. He made substantial contributions to computer assisted learning and interactive teaching methods as adjuncts to, but never as a substitute for, traditional methods. He had a passion for art history and was renowned for his course in 'anatomy for artists' at the Slade School for fourteen years. He published many papers, both as sole author and in collaboration with others, and produced many teaching videos dealing with basic, applied and surgical anatomy. As a teacher of large audiences he was a professional communicator, with every lecture meticulously prepared and illustrated; but he was also an excellent teacher of small groups of students, whom he handled kindly and with no more than gentle teasing.

He had a lifelong interest in music. The last two years of his life were marked by much suffering and he died of cancer on 28 July 1994, aged 59. He never married.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1994 309 1368; The Bell: UCL Medical School Students' Magazine, Spring 1995].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England