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Biographical entry Bickford, Bertram John (1913 - 2001)

MRCS 1936; FRCS 1939; MB BS London 1936; LRCP 1936.

17 October 1913
Tavistock, Devon
26 April 2001
Thoracic surgeon


Bertram John Bickford was a consultant surgeon in Liverpool. He was born in Tavistock, Devon, on 17 October 1913, and was to become the third generation of his family to enter medicine. His grandfather, Thomas Leaman Bickford, was a Surgeon Captain RN. His father, Bertram Raleigh Bickford, was a GP and also a former Surgeon Captain RN. His mother was Bertrude Annie Reid, née Camozzi.

Bickford was educated at Epsom College and went to Bart's with a scholarship. There he won the Matthews Duncan prize and qualified in 1936. He completed house jobs at King George's Hospital, Ilford, and Bart's, and after a succession of training posts at the Royal Northern Hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Broadgreen Hospital and Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital, he passed the FRCS at the first attempt in 1939. He attributed his success in the operative viva to his examiner, Sir Henry Souttar, who rescued him by offering him an elevator to lift up the disc of bone which was adherent to the dura in the cadaver. During this period he was influenced by Kenneth Walker and Barrington-Ward and at first thought of specialising in urology, in which he gained further experience in the RAFVR in North Africa, Italy and at Wroughton, where he followed in the footsteps of Alec Badenoch. He reached the rank of Wing Commander. While in the RAF he developed improved mountain rescue methods, and whilst in Northern Ireland devised pre-packed rations for the flying boats, eliminating the need for vegetable sacks and a Primus stove.

He found it was not easy to get into urology and decided to specialise in thoracic surgery, partly from the influence of 'Uncle Tom' Holmes Sellors, and later from experience in Liverpool under Morriston Davies and Ronald Edwards. His own contributions were mainly in the surgery of congenital heart disease at the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital.

In the days when housemen were forbidden to marry, he married (in secret) Honor née Rose, by whom he had two sons and two daughters, one a physiotherapist. In retirement he moved to North Wales, where he pursued his hobbies of music and the theatre. In 1997 he underwent an aortic valve replacement and bypass surgery, but it was complicated by bacterial endocarditis from which he never really made a full recovery, and which led to his death on 26 April 2001.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2001 323 344, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England