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Biographical entry O'Connor, Brian Thomas (1929 - 1999)

MRCS 1956; FRCS 1958; MB BS Queensland 1952; MCh Liverpool 1959; MS Queensland 1964; FRACS 1964.

27 September 1929
Brisbane, Australia
21 January 1999
Orthopaedic surgeon


Brian O'Connor established the Institute of Orthopaedics at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital at Oswestry. Born in Brisbane on 27 September 1929, his father was Edward O'Connor, an engineer. His mother was Eileen Maloney, the daughter of a ship owner. He was educated at St Joseph's College, Brisbane, where he was dux in 1946 and a champion gymnast. At the age of 15, afraid that the war would end without him, he abandoned his studies to work on a Swedish merchant ship, but returned to graduate from the University of Queensland, where he won a Commonwealth government university scholarship.

He did junior jobs in Townsville and then went to Albany, New York, as an assistant resident in orthopaedics under C J Campbell, and the following year to the Karolinska under Sten Friberg. In 1957, he went to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, to work with Sir Herbert Seddon, J I P James, K I Nissen and David Trevor. During these years he supported himself by working as a professional acrobat. This was followed by a period as senior house officer at Mount Vernon, learning the principles of plastic surgery.

In 1959 he took the MCh course at Liverpool and wrote a thesis on pes cavus for the degree. He became senior registrar to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1960, where he took a special interest in injuries involving the chest.

In 1962 he was seconded to the Sudan as senior lecturer in the University of Khartoum, in order to set up an orthopaedic and trauma service, and as civil war broke out he became adviser to the Sudanese Armed Forces, and established an artificial limb and appliance centre.

During three months leave in Australia he took the MCh and FRACS examinations, and in 1965 returned to Oxford as first assistant to Robert Duthie, the Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, with honorary consultant status.

In 1968 he was invited to be director of clinical studies at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry, where he set about establishing an Institute of Orthopaedics, and in 1978 he became the first Robert Jones Professor of Orthopaedics at Birmingham University. In 1992 he was able to open a new sophisticated theatre complex equipped with ultra-clean air. He retired in 1994 and, since he was a collector of military antiques, was presented with an Australian naval sword by his colleagues in recognition of his combative spirit.

He married Lynette Hunter, by whom he had two sons, Sean and Brian, and two daughters, Kerstin and Tamsin. He died on 21 January 1999.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1999 318 814, with portrait; The Times 22 February 1999].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England