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Biographical entry Bailey, Leonard Alec (1910 - 1997)

Hon FRCS 1973; Hon DSc Heriot-Watt 1971; Hon FRCSI 1967; Hon FRCS Edinburgh 1970; Hon FRCOG 1973.

8 August 1910
Pontypridd, South Wales
11 September 1997
Businessman and Industrial chemist


Leonard Bailey was an industrial chemist and managing director of Ethicon, who used his scientific knowledge and impressive managerial skills not only to succeed in his own career, but also to help others. He was born in Pontypridd, South Wales, on 8 August 1910, the son of a deputy chief inspector of the Ministry of Health. He was educated at Cardiff High School, the University of Wales and University College London. He qualified as an industrial chemist in 1932. He started his career with Monsanto Chemicals and then moved to the pharmaceutical division of ICI. In 1943 he joined the medical inspectorate of the Ministry of Supply.

At the end of the war he took what must have been one of the most decisive steps of his life when in 1945 he joined the pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson. In 1947 he became the sales manager and director of their subsidiary, Ethicon and shortly thereafter its managing director. In this capacity he displayed both his scientific background and his flair for business management and Ethicon Limited of Edinburgh became the most advanced suture organisation in Europe. Their technical knowledge was in constant demand and they helped to establish suture-manufacturing plants in various parts of the Commonwealth and Europe. They were the first to pioneer acceptable standards for surgical sutures, the first in this country to introduce radiation sterilisation and the first company to establish and maintain a research unit constantly seeking for improvements in the production of sutures already in use and the testing of new materials. Ethicon has always given the most generous support to surgical research and Leonard Bailey was the instigator of all this. Subsequently a series of fellowships was established to enable young surgeons to travel and study abroad. The tenure of an Ethicon fellowship has been the start of many successful surgical careers.

In 1936 Bailey married Audrey Margaret Colley and they had a son and a daughter, who became a veterinary surgeon.

Despite his involvement in a very busy professional life, Bailey found time to take a keen interest in civic affairs in Edinburgh and was a town councillor for 12 years, serving on many important committees concerned with the welfare of Scotland, ranging from Leith docks to hospital boards. His interest in and support for surgical affairs was widespread and in recognition of this he was elected an Honorary Member of the prestigious James IV Association of Surgeons in 1969, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, of Edinburgh, and of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He was elected to the Court of Patrons of this College in 1970, in recognition of his substantial contributions; he was responsible for obtaining the gift from Ethicon for the oak panelling in the Council Room, gave generously to support the research establishment at Downe and, in addition to setting up the Ethicon travelling fellowships, he also donated funds to enable the presidents of the College to travel abroad. Surgery throughout the British Isles and elsewhere owes much to this man for his foresight and generous benefaction. He died on 11 September 1997.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England