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Biographical entry Edwards, Harold Clifford (1899 - 1989)

CBE 1945; MRCS 1923; FRCS 1926; MB BS London 1923; MS 1928; FRCOG ad eundem 1971; Hon FACS 1964.

15 August 1899
Newport, Monmouthshire
2 August 1989
General surgeon


Harold Clifford Edwards was born in Newport, Monmouthshire on 15 August 1899, the second son of William Evans Edwards, Professor of Music, and Mary Selina (née Jones). He was educated at St Woollos School and Newport Intermediate School before joining the Royal Engineers in 1917 as a skilled sapper.

After demobilisation he entered the National University of Wales and completed his medical studies at King's College Hospital, qualifying in 1923. He was appointed house surgeon to Sir John Thomson Walker and later registrar to Sir Thomas Fairbank as well as being surgical tutor to the hospital. In 1928 after passing the FRCS and MS examinations he was appointed honorary surgeon at King's College Hospital five years after qualification. He was also elected to the staff of King Edward VII Hospital for Officers and to St Saviour's Hospital, the Evelina Hospital for Children and to Brent Hospital. The breadth of his interests at that time is exemplified by the award of the Robert Jones Prize and Gold Medal for a treatise on injuries to tendons and muscles in 1930 and the Jacksonian Prize two years later for an essay entitled 'Diverticulitis of the intestine'. He was also Abraham Colles Lecturer to the British Orthopaedic Association. His main interest however was gastroenterology, particularly in later years. He was appointed Hunterian Professor in 1934.

In the second world war he returned to the Army, from 1941 to 1946, serving initially as consultant surgeon to Southern Command (1942-1944) with the rank of Brigadier and later as consultant surgeon to Central Mediteranean Forces (1944-1946). He was awarded the CBE in 1945.

After the end of the war he was Dean of his medical school from 1947 to 1950 and later Director of the department of surgery at the time when the surgical unit was being built. He was a great teacher, popular with the students and served as a member of the Court of Examiners from 1931 to 1960 as well as being examiner in surgery to the Universities of London, Cambridge, Wales, Birmingham, Dublin and Bristol. He was consultant adviser in surgery to the Minister of Health from 1956 to 1970 and member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons from 1955 to 1971, serving as Vice-President 1968-69. In 1968 he delivered the Bradshaw Lecture: 'Crohn's disease, an enquiry into its nature and consequences'. He was Master of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries 1966-67 and in 1972 was awarded the gold medal of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Although his nature was quiet and reserved he was a skilled and meticulous surgeon and exercised considerable influence in the committees on which he served. He was also an extremely kind man who took a great interest in the careers of those who had worked under him.

He was a prodigious writer, especially in the spheres of gastroenterology and the training of surgeons and was the author of many textbooks, including Surgical emergencies in children, 1935, Diverticula and diverticulitis of the intestine, 1939, and Recent advances in surgery, 1954, and was the first editor of Gut. He was President of the British Society of Gastroenterology in 1961 and President of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland ten years later. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the American Surgical Association, the Académie de Chirurgie, the Gastroenterological Society of Venezuela and the West African Association of Surgery. He served as President of the Wessex Surgical Club from its foundation shortly after the war until 1976.

He married, in 1926, Ida Phillips who died in 1981. They had two sons, both of whom are geneticists. In later life he retired to Cambridge in order to be close to one of his sons and died there on 2 August 1989.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1989, 299, 677 with portrait; The Times 4 August 1989].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England