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Biographical entry Linton, John Steuart Alexander (1916 - 2001)

MRCS 1938; FRCS 1948; LRCP 1938.

29 January 1916
Khyber Pass
3 April 2001
General practitioner and Thoracic surgeon


John Steuart Alexander Linton was a consultant surgeon at Nottingham. He was the son of the Very Reverend J H Linton, a missionary who became a bishop in Persia. His mother, Alicia Aldous, had qualified in 1908 from the Royal Free Hospital and was then senior resident in Isfahan Hospital. She was on her way home from Persia when John was born in the Khyber Pass on 29 January 1916. He used to joke that he was born "off the back of a camel". He was the second of four sons, who were all sent back to school in England at the age of four. He went to Repton in 1928, where Geoffrey Fisher (later Archbishop of Canterbury) was headmaster. Mrs Fisher was Linton's cousin, so John was beaten more than most to show no favouritism. John injured an eye playing cricket and was unable to work for nearly a year; he was given a camera and a bicycle and let loose in Derbyshire, which he regarded as a thoughtful and imaginative plan. He continued to be an enthusiastic cricketer, and became an excellent swimmer and tennis player.

He went to St Bartholomew's in 1934, where he was taught anatomy by Oz Tubbs, an experience he always valued. His father was now assistant bishop of Birmingham and John did a few GP locums around the area until he joined the RAF at the beginning of the war. He was posted to Canada in 1941 and returned in 1942 as senior medical officer at RAF Elsham, a bomber station. There he worked on the problem of calculating oxygen requirements during the long flights in Lancasters to Germany and Italy, research which required him to fly in the aircraft himself.

After the war he intended to return to general practice, but his mother persuaded him to work for the FRCS, so he returned to Bart's as a houseman, passing the final FRCS along with Peter Jones (the founder of Pete's Club) and Johnnie Weaver in 1948. He then did junior jobs in Carshalton and Hammersmith, where he thought Ian Aird was the best teacher he had ever known.

Choosing to specialise in thoracic surgery, he worked at the Brompton and the London Chest Hospitals, until he was found to have a tuberculous focus in the lung and was sent out of London to Southampton, as senior house officer to Paul Chinn. When his chest was cured, he returned to London to work for Holmes Sellors, Vernon Thompson, Geoffrey Flavell and Price Thomas. After Price Thomas operated on King George VI and was knighted, John became his registrar. Later he worked for Lord Brock, through whom he was appointed as a consultant in Nottingham. He used to recall an incident when he was assisting Brock and was told off for using the wrong instrument. "But it is common practice, sir", he said. Brock replied, "So is adultery Linton, but it don't make it right". In Nottingham he built up a reputation for patent ductus arteriosus and was an active member of Pete's Club.

He married Margaret Goode in 1943 and had two daughters (one called Alexandra), neither of whom went into medicine. In retirement he did a few local locums to eke out his pension, and spent much time gardening in his cottage in Coulston, where he was chairman of his parish council. He died on 3 April 2001 in Devizes.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Mrs Margaret Linton].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England