Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Hudson, Michael John Knight (1936 - 2017)

MRCS LRCP 1961; MB BS London 1961; FRCS 1967.

21 March 1936
23 May 2017
Great Bircham, Norfolk
Breast Surgeon, General surgeon and Vascular surgeon


Michael John Knight Hudson (always known as Mike) was a consultant general, vascular and breast surgeon in north Cambridgeshire and King's Lynn. He was born in Southgate, London, on 21 March 1936, the son of Kenneth Alfred Knight Hudson, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, and Eucharia Aloysius Marie Hudson née Sloane. Mike's grandfather was Ernest Alfred Knight Hudson, who served with the Australian 1st Light Horse in the First World War and won the DSO, dying from flu a few weeks after the Armistice. Mike's father Kenneth travelled as ship's surgeon on the SS Port Darwin to England. He initially worked at the South Devon Hospital in Plymouth, where he met Mike's mother Eucharia, always known as Lal, a nurse from Waterville, County Kerry.

Mike was lucky to survive; being born prematurely and then battling pneumonia, he was not expected to last the night and had an emergency blessing from a priest. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Mike, aged three, and his older sister Patricia (who later became a nurse) were sent to Clare Park, a small boarding school near Farnham. By now Mike's father was a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at North Middlesex Hospital (and deputy superintendent). Despite being sent for safety away from the London bombs and separated at an early age from his parents, Mike's early memories were happy, despite further illness. He caught infectious hepatitis and recalled being fed boiled sausages! He later developed a tonsillar abscess, which required incising and he remembered being terrified when told to breathe the anaesthetic gas. As a child, the only gas he knew came out of a tap and was bad for you! Subsequently, Ivor Lewis from North Middlesex removed Mike's tonsils. With his father's occupation and his own history of illness, one wonders if Mike's surgical career was almost inevitable.

In January 1943, Mike and his sister came back home to Palmers Green and Mike attended Keble Prep School. His father was on call every second night for emergency surgery and fire-watched when he was not. Mike had vivid memories of local searchlights and anti-aircraft guns, especially the 4.5 inch guns which, when fired, broke windows for a mile surrounding! In 1946, Mike won a Keble Prep School scholarship and was made head of school and captain of games; the latter, he said, because he was coached by Miss Swinburne who had played cricket for England before the War. Mike enjoyed tapestry and sewing, hobbies which were useful later on! In 1947, he went to Highgate Junior School and a year later, he entered the senior school in Fargate House. He passed A levels in chemistry, physics and pure and applied maths, and maintained his keen interest in cricket, attending test matches at Lord's, where he got in for a shilling. He was made a prefect in his final year, deputy head of house (when Roger Blamey, a year older, was head) and again senior captain of games.

In 1953, Mike attended St Bartholomew's Medical School and was interviewed by the dean, Edward Tuckwell. He joined the light blue firm. As Mike commented - who would guess that 15 years later he would become Edward's chief assistant (senior registrar).

Mike married his first wife Anne Hamilton in 1963. Their first son was born in February 1964 and William followed in January 1967. His career took him to the Royal Masonic, the Royal Berkshire and North Middlesex hospitals. Even then, Mike was known for his carefully considered surgical decisions and somewhat tuneless 'hums' while he thought. He also became noted for wearing a bow tie, far more practical whilst doing a ward round. A younger colleague, Nicholas Packer, who gave Mike's funeral tribute, said he soon learned that if Mike hummed 'For those in peril on the sea' things were not going well, with a questionable prognosis. Mike enjoyed his time working under Martin Birnstingl, a renowned vascular surgeon, who probably influence Mike's career.

At Bart's trainees rotated on different surgical teams every year. In 1973, Mike's pink firm, with Denis Nash and John Griffiths, received a visit from Loren Humphrey from Kansas who had an interest in breast cancer immunology. Keen to undertake some research, Mike applied for, and was awarded, a Fulbright scholarship and went to Kansas from August 1973 to 1974. Part of his remit was to run the breast screening unit at Kansas University Medical Center, part of a trial in 18 states to assess the effectiveness of a screening program. In March 1974, he co-wrote a paper on 'Cancer detection. Early detection at the center for breast disease.' (J Kans Med Soc. 1974 Mar;75[3]:72-4). In the same year, he also published with C J Smart a paper on 'Carcinoma of the male breast.' (Br J Surg 1974 Jun;61[6]:440-4).

Returning from the USA, Mike applied for a consultant post in East Anglia, as he always wanted to be a country surgeon. He was appointed in 1975 to join Graham Thompson and Paul Seargeant as a general consultant and specialist vascular surgeon for north Cambridgeshire and King's Lynn. This involved a heavy workload, as well as being on call for emergencies. He was modest, rarely grumbled, worked very hard and was adored by his patients and staff alike, because he had an innate kindness born of compassion. On Christmas Day at lunchtime he was usually to be found dressed up as Father Christmas (or for one notable year as Tony the Tiger), ready to carve the turkey on the ward.

Mike, along with Simon T Donell, presented a paper in 1986 on 'Iatrogenic superior mesenteric arteriovenous fistula' (citing a rare case from King's Lynn) at the annual meeting of the Association of International Vascular Surgeons, in St Moritz. This was reprinted in 1988 in the Journal of Vascular Surgery (J Vasc Surg. 1988 Sep;8[3]:335-8).

It was a measure of the respect in which he was held that Mike sat on the medical executive committee of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, as one of the 'three wise men', doctors noted for their experience and wisdom.

Mike always retained his interest in breast surgery and around 1990, when national breast screening began, he pioneered the setting up of a multidisciplinary team. He also introduced core, rather than fine needle, biopsies, to give a more accurate pre-surgery diagnosis. This was radical at the time and a notable achievement for a small country town. Queen Elizabeth Hospital still has a dedicated, excellent breast care unit, as a result of his founding principles.

Following a small coronary in 1992, Mike retired in the summer of 1999. After some years, in his own words, 'in the wilderness', he met and married his second wife, Sally Ann Rosalind Strutt, in East Rudham, Norfolk, in 2000. He acquired four stepchildren, Ben, Ellie, Dominic and Charlotte, who all grew to love him. During his happy retirement spent with Sally, he co-owned a 70-foot narrowboat, was a film extra, explored Second World War airfields in East Anglia, enjoyed opera, crosswords and sudoku, and followed international cricket. His elder son Jonathan married Carla, and they had Caitlin and Erin; his younger son, William, married Jane, and their children are Freddie and Ella. Mike Hudson died on 23 May 2017. He was 81.

Sally Hudson

Sources used to compile this entry: [Nicholas Packer; Graham Thompson; Eastern Daily Press 1 June 2017 - accessed 20 December 2017].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England