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Biographical entry Ranger, Sir Douglas (1916 - 1997)

Kt 1978; MRCS 1941; FRCS 1943; MB BS London 1941.

5 October 1916
Dalton in Furness, Lancashire
22 December 1997
ENT surgeon and Medical administrator


Sir Douglas Ranger was a distinguished otolaryngologist and a fine medical administrator. He was born in Dalton in Furness, Lancashire, on 5 October 1916, the second son of William Ranger and Hatton Thomasina Grigg. His father was, in turn, a schoolmaster, an army officer, and latterly a businessman. After the first world war, the family emigrated to Australia in 1920, where he was educated at Scott's College, Warwick, Queensland, and the Church of England Grammar School, Brisbane, Queensland. The family returned to England in 1936 and Douglas entered the Middlesex Hospital as a medical student, where he had an outstanding career, winning all the prizes available to undergraduates. He qualified MB BS in 1941 and was awarded the Heltey clinical prize and the Leopold Hudson prize in surgery. His early appointments were with Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor and R V Hudson. He decided to make his career in surgery and obtained his Fellowship of the College in 1943. He served as a surgical specialist in the RAMC in the United Kingdom and in Burma.

After demobilisation, he returned to England, to the Middlesex, and was trained in the department of otolaryngology by C P Wilson and J P Monkhouse. Having completed his training, he was appointed consultant otolaryngologist to the Middlesex Hospital and soon acquired a high reputation as an excellent diagnostician and a fine operative surgeon. His particular interest was in the management of tumours of the head and neck. In association with Leslie Le Quesne, he compiled a series of cases of a hypopharyngeal carcinoma treated by excision and stomach 'pull up' that resulted in a great improvement in the quality of life for over 100 patients.

However, his most remarkable gift was the ability to analyse the difficult problems that occur in the administration of hospital medical practice, calmly and objectively. He would spend hours sifting through the facts of the situation before expressing an opinion as to the right course to be taken. As a result, he was in great demand as a committee member, and at one time it is said that he sat on over 60 committees. From 1971 to 1982 he acted as consultant adviser in otolaryngology to the DHSS. Between 1965 and 1983 he acted as civilian consultant to the Royal Air Force.

He was appointed Dean of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in 1974, where he worked with great benefit to the medical school for nine years. It was a difficult period because of the need to rationalise the teaching hospitals in the London area. The Middlesex Hospital was required to merge its medical school with University College and Douglas Ranger played a leading part in the early negotiations.

His responsibilities for the undergraduate students were not his only concern. He took a great interest in the training of surgeons and served as a member of the specialist advisory committee on otolaryngology for nine years, for the last three of which he was Chairman. During this period great improvements were seen in the quality of both the trainees and the consultants the scheme produced.

He was a founding member of the committee which set up the British Academic Conference in Otolaryngology. Funds were scarce and little money was available for printing. It was typical of Douglas that he went out, bought a printing press, and taught himself to print so that the stationery required could be produced at minimal cost. He printed much of what was required for the next six academic conferences. The conferences were sponsored by the British Association of Otolaryngology, which he served as honorary secretary for six years, and was a member of the council for some 12 years. This was greatly to the benefit of the Association because of the liaison which was established with the Department of Health. At this particularly busy time in his life he served as a member of the Court of Examiners of the College from 1965 to 1971 and as a member for otolaryngology on the Council from 1966 to 1971. He served too as secretary and later as President of the British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists.

His considerable services to his hospital, to his chosen specialty, to the University of London and to the Department of Health were recognised by the award of a knighthood in 1978. He retired from medical practice in 1983 and wrote a history of his hospital and medical school.

In 1943 Douglas Ranger married Betty Poynton Draper. There were two sons of the marriage, Philip and Michael, both of whom entered the medical profession; one joined the Royal Air Force as a medical officer and the other works in general practice. In addition his brother, Ian Ranger, was a consultant surgeon at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in East Anglia.

Such a very busy professional life did not leave time for recreation. Although in his early years Douglas Ranger had been a first-class golfer, he was unable to continue to play because of his many other professional commitments. In 1995, he retired to Cheltenham to be closer to his grandchildren and to spend more time with his wife. Unhappily he was there for less than two years when he died, on 22 December 1997, after a short illness following a coronary infarction.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1998 316 1613; The Times 7 January 1998, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England