Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Hughes, Sir Edward Stuart Reginald (1919 - 1998)

Kt 1977; CBE 1971; MRCS and FRCS 1946; MB BS Melbourne 1943; MD 1945; MS 1946; Hon LLD Monash; FRACS 1950; FACS 1962.

4 July 1919
16 October 1998
Colorectal surgeon and General surgeon


Sir Edward Hughes, known as 'Bill', was Chair of Surgery at Monash University and a former President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He was born on 4 July 1919, the third child of Reginald Hawkins Hughes and Annie Grace née Langford. He was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, where he was academically successful and also good at sport, representing the school at tennis, football and the hurdles. He was house captain in 1937, a position which gave him an early opportunity to display his great organising abilities. While at school he developed otosclerosis, which became a lifelong disability: eventually he became totally deaf in one ear and had only 30 per cent hearing in the other.

In 1938, he entered the medical course at Melbourne University, gained honours through the course, and finished with first class honours in surgery and medicine, coming top of the year in aggregate marks. As a student he coped with his deafness by comparing his notes with those of fellow students. He entered Queen's College in his second year and represented the university at football, gaining an Australian blue. He also rowed for his college.

For two years he held house jobs at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. During the second year he also tutored at Queen's College. He then took an MD by examination and followed this with the MS. During this time he was a demonstrator in anatomy under Sydney Sunderland and contributed to papers on peripheral and cranial nerves. Sunderland suggested that he apply for a scholarship to study at Oxford under H J Seddon, where he stayed for a year, obtaining both parts of the FRCS.

From 1947 to 1948 he was surgical registrar under Joe Fathi at the Connaught Hospital and Queen Mary's Hospital, Stratford (East London). He then won a Leverhulme research fellowship at the College, where he made a study of the development of the mammary gland, which gained him an Arris and Gale lectureship in 1949. He next went to St Mark's Hospital as clinical assistant and then RSO, which led to a life-long interest in colorectal surgery.

He returned to Melbourne in 1950 as assistant surgeon to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, but this was interrupted by Army service in the Korean war. The Australian Army Hospital in Kure, Japan, was short of experienced surgeons and Hughes, who had spent a brief period as a private in a field ambulance unit, was approached to become commanding officer with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He organised the hospital services in Kure, did a great deal of the surgery himself, established a high standard of documentation and promoted the rehabilitation of the wounded. After he returned to Melbourne, he remained on the reserve and became surgical adviser to the Army.

He became surgeon to outpatients at the Royal Melbourne in 1954 and surgeon to inpatients from 1963 to 1974. During this time he built up a large private practice and wrote prolifically, including more than 200 papers and several textbooks on colorectal surgery. In 1974 he accepted the Chair of Surgery at Monash University and moved from the Royal Melbourne to the Alfred Hospital, where he remained until his retirement in 1984. After some negotiation, the University agreed to his taking his private practice with him to the Alfred. He was a stimulating head of department, an initiator of research and very active in teaching undergraduates.

A man of immense energy, Hughes was an excellent technical surgeon and had a keen sense of humour. He had a great reputation as a teacher, which began with his undergraduate tutorials at Queen's College. His contributions to colorectal surgery, including the largest series of bowel cancers in Australia, were mostly based on his private referral practice, in which he showed that excellent academic work could be done outside the confines of a university department.

Another important contribution came from his interest in road trauma, a major problem in Australia. He played a large part in the introduction of seat-belts in Victoria, one of the earliest examples of such legislation in the world.

During the latter part of his career he was involved with the affairs of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, of which he was an outstanding President from 1975 to 1978. He was knighted in 1977. He received honorary memberships of surgical societies in Europe and the USA, and honorary fellowships of a number of colleges, including those of Ireland, Edinburgh, Canada, the Philippines and USA, as well as our own. He gave a large number of named lectures all over the world.

He married Alison Lelean, a ward sister, when he was a house surgeon. They had four children. Hughes developed Parkinson's disease in 1978, which became increasingly severe. He died on 16 October 1998, probably of bowel obstruction.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England