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Biographical entry Marston, Jeffrey Adrian Priestley (1927 - 2016)

BM BCh Oxford 1951; FRCS 1958; DM MCh 1963; Hon MD Nice 1983; Hon FRSM 2007.

15 December 1927
7 April 2016
Worthing, Sussex
General surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Always known by his second given name, Adrian Marston was an internationally-admired surgeon, a polylinguist and educationalist who also made significant advances in the understanding of the splanchnic circulation and intestinal failure.

Born to Jeffrey Marston, a major in the Royal Artillery, and Doreen (née Norris), a publisher's editor, Adrian was proud that his great-grandfather, Jeffrey Marston, was a surgeon and a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. From an early age Adrian was distinguished academically, being thrice a scholar; an open scholar to Marlborough College in 1941, a foundation scholar to Magdalen College, Oxford in 1945 and a university entrance scholar to St Thomas's Hospital Medical School in 1948, from where he qualified in 1951. After house appointments, he did National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps serving in the UK and Gibraltar with the rank of captain, before returning to St Thomas' as a registrar and then a senior registrar. From 1961 to 1962 he spent a research year in the USA in Boston at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and the Harvard Medical School investigating aspects of intestinal ischaemia. This was the foundation of his lifelong interest in the intestinal circulation and resulted in an Arris and Gale lecture in 1964 titled 'Patterns of intestinal ischaemia' (Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 1964 Sep;35:150-81). On his return from the USA he continued as a senior registrar at St Thomas' but also undertook specialised colorectal training as a clinical assistant at St Mark's Hospital. In 1965, he was appointed as a senior lecturer in surgery and honorary consultant at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School working closely with Leslie Le Quesne. Five years later, in 1970, he became a consultant surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital, which remained his principal appointment until his retirement in 1992, although at various times he also had consultant sessions at the Royal Northern Hospital (from 1970 to 1985), the Manor House Hospital (1970 to 1993), the National Heart Hospital (1985 to 1991), the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (1985 to 1991) and University College Hospital (1985 to 1992).

Although Adrian was an accomplished general surgeon, he was more widely known as a peripheral vascular surgeon, this being his principal interest throughout his career. He published some 130 papers in peer-reviewed journals mainly on this subject and of which many related to the intestinal circulation and intestinal failure. His first monograph was titled Intestinal ischaemia (London, Edward Arnold 1977) and this was followed by A colour atlas of visceral artery reconstruction (London, Wolfe Medical, 1984) and Vascular disease of the gut, pathophysiology, recognition and management (London, Edward Arnold, 1986). He co-edited with American colleagues Splanchnic ischaemia and multiple organ failure (London, Edward Arnold, 1989). In retirement, having given up writing original contributions to vascular disease, he published a well-reviewed biography of one of his surgical heroes, Hamilton Bailey, Hamilton Bailey: a surgeon's life (London, Greenwich Medical Media, 1999).

As his reputation grew it is no surprise that he was elected to high office in a number of national organisations: Court of Examiners, the Royal College of Surgeons (from 1979 to 1984), president of the Vascular Surgical Society (1985 to 1986), president of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (1986 to 1987), council of the Royal College of Surgeons from 1985 to 1995 (vice president from 1990 to 1992). Throughout this busy period of his life he was also an examiner in surgery to the universities of London, Cambridge, Newcastle and Liverpool, while regularly travelling overseas giving invited lectures, especially in Europe and Latin America where his enviable language skills could be used. He was fluent in French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, while having a working knowledge of several others. It is not surprising that he was elected an honorary member or fellow of many overseas societies in countries as diverse as Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Spain and France. He was awarded an honorary MD from the University of Nice in 1983 and in 1999 became a Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite de France, a signal honour for a British surgeon.

Adrian's interest in the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) was lifelong. Since his trainee days he had been a regular attendee at surgical meetings of the Society and in due course became president of the section of surgery (from 1979 to 1980). In 1995, at a time when he might have been expected to be a candidate for presidency of the College, he resigned from the College council in order to take up the position of academic dean of the RSM, a post he threw himself into with typical gusto. He had always been greatly interested in surgical education and this post enabled him to expand this interest into the wider sphere of all medical disciplines. He had overall responsibility for all educational matters at the RSM, 'supervising' the activity of some 50 different sections, always with a light touch, and starting a series of over-arching meetings aimed at the membership at large, wherever possible drawing on contributors from a variety of disciplines. This was an innovation which continues to this day. He was vice president of the Society from 1998 to 2000 and was elected an honorary fellow in 2007.

In private life, he was married to Sylvie (née Colin), a dermatologist, and they had three children Joanna, John and Nicholas. He was an accredited guide at Fulham Palace and a season ticket holder of Fulham Football Club. Quietly spoken without a trace of arrogance, invariably polite and highly articulate, Adrian was hugely admired and greatly respected by all. Although it was not widely known at the time, for many years he lived with an intestinal urinary conduit, having had a total cystectomy for carcinoma of the bladder at the age of 51. Towards the end of his life he wrote his experience of this in his last book, a volume of personal memoirs, titled As it were: reflections of a twentieth century surgeon (London, Begonia Press, 2012). He died peacefully on 7 April 2016, aged 89.

Sir Barry Jackson

Sources used to compile this entry: [Personal knowledge; BMJ 2016 353 3503 - accessed 31 January 2018; The Royal Society of Medicine - Adrian Marston, former dean and honorary fellow, dies aged 89 21 April 2016,-former-dean-and-honorary-fellow-dies-aged-89.aspx - accessed 31 January 2018; Travelling Surgical Society of Great Britain and Ireland - accessed 31 January 2018].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England