Professor Sir (Christopher) John Dewhurst, FRCS, FRCOG, Hon FACOG

Sir John Dewhurst

1920 - 2006

Christopher John Dewhurst, Jack, was born in Garstang, Lancashire, son of John Dewhurst, a market gardener and Agnes, a District Nurse. He was brought up in Poulton and was a staunch supporter of Blackpool Football Club in the days when Stanley Matthews dominated the English game. He was educated at St. Joseph's College, Dumfries, where he excelled at cricket. He also played for Fylde for whom he took a hat trick on the 31st July 1937, and also scored a century later that season. He took a further hat trick and scored two more centuries for Fylde in later seasons.

He graduated from the University of Manchester in 1943 MB ChB when he was also the University billiards champion. After six months of house jobs he was conscripted to join the Navy and was promoted to Surgeon Lieutenant, RNVR. He was posted to tank landing craft and took part in the Normandy landings at Sword Beach in 1944. He was later posted to the battleship George V and was de-mobbed in 1946. Returning to Manchester he did a paediatric house job, followed by house officer posts in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. He obtained his Membership in 1949 and was appointed Senior Registrar at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester and then went on to become a Lecturer at Sheffield University in 1951. He obtained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and was subsequently appointed Senior Lecturer and then Reader, remaining until 1967.

In 1967 he was appointed to the Chair in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Mecca of obstetrics in London, Queen Charlotte's Hospital and the Chelsea Hospital for Women, part of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in conjunction with the Hammersmith Hospital. This was a major breakthrough for London, to appoint not only a Northerner, but also a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

This appointment coincided with a major expansion of international talent at Queen Charlotte's which subsequently became a leading centre for research and teaching. He encouraged this and soon appointed Stuart Campbell, a young fledgling Registrar from Glasgow working with Ian Donald to become his Lecturer, subsequently Senior Lecturer. Along the same lines followed Ian Craft, John Beazley, Mike Bennett and Brian Trudinger, all to become senior Professors and Heads of Department. He himself advanced his chosen areas of interest of paediatric endocrinology, inter-sex disorders and paediatric malignancy, but still encouraged adult gynaecological oncology to be a recognised as a developing specialty.

In 1975, he was elected as the youngest President, to that date, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

He was knighted for his services to medicine in 1977. He was a superb orator and ambassador, not only for the College and our specialty, but also for our country. He was able to lecture on any subject that he had a particular interest in, often without other aids that we in this day and age increasingly depend upon. He could make a dull and boring subject become alive and interesting even to tired and worried MRCOG students. His ability to carry out research into historical areas led to not only numerous lectures and invitations to speak, but also publications on royal births, the Catholic Church and the iconography of saints and the Italian language. His first lecture on a triple obstetric tragedy highlighting the obstetric history of Queen Charlotte was a masterpiece. His knowledge of royal confinements was fascinating as were the history of Queen Charlotte's Hospital.

He was appointed to Honorary Fellowship to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1976 and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in 1977, Honorary Fellowship to the South African College in 1978 and of the Royal Australian College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1985. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science at Sheffield University in 1977 and an Honorary Doctorate of Medicine in Uruguay in 1980. He was elected to the Society of Pelvic Surgeons in 1982. He retired in 1985 having represented the United Kingdom on the FIGO Committee of Cancer. His retirement dinner was held at the Royal College and was an outstanding occasion.

His funeral was a quiet occasion, a Requiem Mass held on 7th December. It was attended by various Members and Fellows of the College many of whom were his ex-housemen and Senior Registrar. It was a moving occasion. The College, British and world medicine are richer for his major contribution to our specialty. He was one of the kindest and best doctors I and any of us will ever have known and many of us have a major debt of gratitude to him for all his encouragement, guidance and foresight. He had a highly successful life, an excellent first innings and is now looking to a better and eternal second innings which his faith will carry him to. May he rest in peace.

Submitted by John H. Shepherd

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