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Biographical entry Gardner, Nigel Hedley Noall (1933 - 2016)

MB ChB Birmingham 1956; FRCS 1963; MRCOG 1966; FRCOG 1979.

16 February 1933
17 September 2016
Obstetrician and gynaecologist


Nigel Gardner was a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in Exeter. He was born in Aldridge, Staffordshire on 16 February 1933, to Hedley and Mathilde Gardner. After leaving school, Nigel studied medicine at Birmingham University and St Thomas' Hospital, London, qualifying in 1956.

After posts at the Chelsea Hospital for Women, Queen Charlotte's Hospital, London, and St Thomas', and gaining his FRCS in 1963 and his membership of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1966, he went to Exeter in 1969 to take up a consultancy post. He became the longest serving specialist there, retiring in 1998.

His career absorbed many changes, including endoscopic technology. This, plus the introduction of video-supported operations, made life in theatre significantly easier. Nigel's career also saw further specialist areas of gynaecology develop, including fertility test tube baby units, plastic surgery, day care surgery and advances in cancer treatment (oncology was his particular specialty). He also oversaw the development of a new maternity unit at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where he delivered many babies and brought many women back to health. His primary concern was always patient care and well-being, and he was a meticulous and skilled surgeon.

Nigel was also a keen sportsman. While a captain in the Army, he was a leading member of the British downhill ski racing team in the mid-1950s. His most significant achievement at that time was skiing for Great Britain in the 1956 Winter Olympics at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. He was a fine shot, a good skater and played golf off a scratch handicap for most of his life. As a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and many other clubs, he developed a strong network of friends across the UK and abroad around golfing. He was also instrumental in designing and establishing a new course near his home in Crediton, Devon.

Nigel developed many other skills during his life. He learned to fly in his fifties. He became a skilled cabinet maker and furniture restorer and joiner, making and fitting a number of items of furniture for his own home. He also mastered cookery and enjoyed creating complex and fine dishes for his family and friends. Scuba diving was a major pastime in the 1970s, when he would catch bountiful loads of seafood from his own boat.

He met his future wife Juliet in the 1950s on a train in Switzerland. She also trained to be a doctor. He married her in 1960 and they had three children - Nicola, James and Michael. Juliet died from cancer just six months before Nigel himself died at home on 17 September 2016 at the age of 83: they were together for over 50 years. He was much loved and is greatly missed by his three children and three granddaughters.

Jim Gardner

The Royal College of Surgeons of England