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Biographical entry Hanley, Howard Granville (1909 - 2001)

CBE 1975; MRCS 1933; FRCS 1939; MB BS Liverpool 1932; MD 1934; LRCP 1933; FACS 1967.

27 July 1909
18 February 2001


Howard Hanley was an energetic and engaging urologist, one of those who in the early years of the NHS ensured that it would provide for specialist urology at a time when there was considerable opposition from the general surgeons.

Howard was born in Hoylake, on the Wirral, on 27 July 1909. His father, Frederick Thomas Hanley, was engaged in the cotton exchange, his mother Edith née Hill, was the daughter of a ship owner. He was educated at St Bees School in Cumberland, before going on to Liverpool University, where he graduated in medicine in 1932. As a student he devoted himself to boxing and rugby, but after junior house jobs he decided that there were more serious things in life and he headed south for surgical training in London. A post in Hammersmith under George Grey Turner, where research was the order of the day, was a stimulating influence, but it was a residency at All Saints Hospital with Terence Millin which set the course of his career.

In 1939, having gained the Fellowship, he was appointed to a full-time post at Hillingdon Hospital (then under Middlesex County Council) and in the same year he married Peggy (Margaret Jeffrey), who was to make a welcoming home for him for the rest of his life. His post at Hillingdon was a 'reserved occupation' and he spent the war serving that community and acquiring the skills which made him a rapid and efficient operating surgeon. He was appointed to St Paul's Hospital for Urinary Diseases in 1947, but did two years in the RAMC before taking up his duties. He then divided his time between Hillingdon and St Paul's, while still acting as civil consultant in urology to the Army. He proved to be an innovator, quick to appreciate the value of new techniques. Among other things, he was the first to see the potential of the X-ray image intensifier in the study of the malfunctioning urinary tract. He soon built up a considerable private practice and a keen following of postgraduate trainees. He served as Dean of the Institute of Urology and later, when on the Council of the College of Surgeons, as Dean of the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences. His teaching reputation brought many invitations to act as visiting professor in the USA.

He played an important part in many societies and associations. He was President of the section of urology of the Royal Society of Medicine. As a member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons (of which he later became President) he toured the country, together with Leslie Pyrah, to urge health authorities to set up specialist departments. He was Vice-President of the College in 1979 and his many services to the profession were recognised by the award of the CBE in 1975.

In the course of an exceptionally busy career, he still found time for social functions. And he and Peggy were able to enjoy some breaks at their house in the south of France. In the long years of retirement he became increasingly impatient with the handicaps of old age, but it was only towards the end that he ceased to attend functions at the College. He died on 18 February 2001, at the age of 91. He is survived by his wife and two sons, one of whom, David, is a plastic surgeon and a Fellow of the College. There are two grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 2001 322 1308].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England