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Biographical entry Hill, Gladys (1894 - 1998)

MRCS 1923; FRCS 1936; MB BS London 1923; MD 1925; LRCP 1923; MRCOG 1934; FRCOG 1944.

28 September 1894
11 January 1998
Obstetrician and gynaecologist


Gladys Hill was a distinguished obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Royal Free Hospital. She was born in Crewe on 28 September 1894, the only child of Arthur Hill, a solicitor, and Caroline, daughter of the Reverend Danby. Her father died when she was only 11, but he had imbued her with a sense of the importance of gaining a good education and earning her own living. She went to Cheltenham Ladies College in 1906, when Dorothea Beale was still headmistress. She was later accepted at Somerville College, Oxford, where she read English, specialising in old Icelandic. She spent much of her time on the games fields and won a half blue for hockey. Among her contemporaries were Vera Brittain and Dorothy Sayers.

In 1916, she was recruited for wartime clerical duties and passport control with MI5. However, at Somerville she had met Winifred Cullis of the Royal Free Hospital, and was inspired to become a doctor. In 1917, therefore, she went to the London School of Medicine for Women (later Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine), then only one of three schools that would accept women students. She excelled in her studies, winning many prizes. On qualifying in 1923, she went first to Paris to study the medical use of radium at the Curie Centre, then still supervised by Marie Curie, before taking up junior posts at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and later the Salvation Army Hospital in London. She passed her MD in London in 1925, her MRCOG in 1934 and her FRCS England in 1936, later becoming FRCOG in 1944. Her teachers had included Cecil Joll, Lionel Norbury, C K Shatterick and Dame Louisa Aldrich Blake. She was appointed obstetric surgeon at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in 1935 and consultant at the Royal Free in 1940.

During the years of the second world war, she managed to keep the nucleus of a maternity unit going at the Royal Free and later, as its director, was responsible for re-establishing the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the hospital. She was appointed an examiner in obstetrics and gynaecology, and was a member of Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists from 1959 to 1962. She had a flair for teaching and, having a horror of slovenly thought and shoddy work, she could be a terrifying examiner.

Her private interests were those of mountain walking, archeology and amateur dramatics. This distinguished career ended with her retirement in 1960, when she returned to her native Somerset to be close to her many cousins. On her hundredth birthday the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists gave a lunch to celebrate their only centenarian. She died on 11 January 1998.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1998 316 1172].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England