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Biographical entry Stallworthy, Sir John Arthur (1906 - 1993)

Kt 1972; MRCS and FRCS 1936; MB ChB Otago 1930; MRCOG 1935; FRCOG 1951; Hon FACS 1955; Hon FCOG SA 1964; Hon FACOG 1974; Hon DSc New Zealand 1975; Hon DSc Leeds 1975; Hon FRCSI 1976.

26 July 1906
New Zealand
19 November 1993
Obstetrician and gynaecologist


John Arthur Stallworthy was born on 26 July 1906 in New Zealand, the son of Arthur John Stallworthy, a newspaper proprietor who later became Minister of Health. His early education was at Auckland Grammar School and he entered Otago University where he took degrees in both law and medicine, qualifying in 1930 with distinction and gold medals in surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology. During his student years he obtained a tennis blue and was given a trial for the All Blacks team.

After house appointments in New Zealand he was awarded in 1931 a medical travelling fellowship and in 1932 an obstetrical travelling fellowship. He worked initially at the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, and later came to London to study surgery and gynaecology at the Royal Postgraduate Hospital and the Chelsea Hospital for Women, where he worked under Victor Bonney. He obtained the MRCOG in 1935 and the FRCS in 1936. In 1937 he went to Vienna to study pathology under Professor Frankel, returning to Oxford the following year as first assistant in the Nuffield department of obstetrics and gynaecology under Professor Chassar Moir. In 1939 he was appointed consultant in charge of his own department at the Radcliffe Infirmary and soon built up a flourishing private practice.

During the war years he established an obstetric flying squad for the Oxford region due to a great concern for safety in obstetrics and his determination to reduce maternal mortality in the area. After the introduction of the National Health Service, by a personal invitation from the Regius Professor of Physic, Sir Farquhar Buzzard, he became director of obstetrics and gynaecology to the United Oxford Hospitals. In 1967 he was appointed Nuffield Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and held this post until he retired in 1973. His gynaecological interests were wide; he pioneered the conservative treatment of pelvic tuberculosis and advocated the treatment of carcinoma of the cervix by radiotherapy followed by Wertheim's hysterectomy. His work on this subject was presented in a Hunterian lecture delivered at the College in 1963. He was in great demand as a lecturer, travelling to Sydney University as McIlrath Guest Professor in 1952, to the United States as Sommer Memorial Lecturer in 1958 and to South Africa as Sims Black Travelling Professor in 1964. He was invited to give the Victor Bonney Memorial Lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1970.

He served on the Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists from 1944 and became senior Vice-President in 1969. He was President of the Medical Protection Society from 1969 to 1976 and was also a co-opted member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons. He served two terms as President of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1973 to 1975 and from 1980 to 1982, when he played an important rĂ´le in redeveloping the Society's premises. He was President of the British Medical Association in 1975 and six years later was awarded the Association's gold medal.

He contributed extensively to the gynaecological literature and jointly edited the eighth edition of Bonney's Gynaecological surgery. In 1967 when the Abortion Act was passed, he published data showing the morbidity associated with medical termination of pregnancy. In 1983 he chaired a BMA working party into the medical consequences of nuclear war and concluded that even a small nuclear device exploding over Britain would virtually eliminate all human life.

His recreations were driving fast cars, writing and gardening. In 1934 he married Margaret Howie, who was described as a wonderful foil for his dynamic personality. Having been told that he would not be home for dinner, she might then receive a 'phone call asking her to produce a meal for a large number of visiting colleagues! There were three children of the marriage - Jon Stallworthy, the poet, who became a Professor of English at Oxford University, and twin daughters, Sally and Wendy, who both married distinguished members of the clergy. His wife pre-deceased him in 1980 and he died on 19 November 1993 after a heart attack, which he survived long enough to enable his family to bid him farewell.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Daily Telegraph 30 November 1993; J Irish Coll Phys Surg 1976 6 64; NZ Med J 1994 107 23; The Times 1 December 1993; BMJ 1993 307 1490, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England