Obituary: Professor Sir John Stallworthy

John Arthur Stallworthy, obstetrician and gynaecologist: born Auckland, New Zealand 26 July 1906; Nuffield Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Oxford University 1967-73 (Emeritus); Kt 1972; President, Royal Society of Medicine 1974-75, 1980-81; President BMA 1975; Chairman, BMA Working Party on the Medical Effects of Nuclear War 1981-83; books include Problems of Fertility in General Practice 1948, Recent Advances in Obstetrics and Gynaecology 1966-79, (co-editor) The Medical Effects of Nuclear War 1983; married 1934 Margaret Howie (died 1980; one son, twin daughters); died Oxford 19 November 1993.

JOHN STALLWORTHY was Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Oxford University from 1967 to 1973, an outstanding surgeon who was also President of the British Medical Association and twice President of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Stallworthy was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1906. He won a national scholarship to Auckland Grammar School and went on to gain a Junior Scholarship to Auckland University. He took first-year examinations in both law and medicine and decided to study the latter which he did at the University of Otago, in Dunedin, where he obtained a senior scholarship. This approach, in which options were assessed and then clear decisions made and adhered to, was typical of the way he approached everything in later life. John Stallworthy had little room for doubt if he felt the evidence was clear.

In 1939 he graduated with distinction and the Gold Medal in surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics. Having won both a one-year medical and two-year obstetric postgraduate travelling scholarship, he chose the latter and studied in Melbourne, London and Vienna between 1932 and 1938. He became a Member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1935 (and a Fellow in 1951) and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1936. In 1938 he was invited to become First Assistant to Professor Chassar Moir in the new Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Oxford University at the Churchill Hospital.

Moir was concerned at the number of women who were dying in childbirth often before help could reach them. Following a concept which originated in Newcastle, he gave Stallworthy the task of setting up a mobile emergency service covering an area with about a 50-mile radius from Oxford in which the care team went to the patient's home. Whether this allowed Stallworthy to indulge legally in one of his lifelong passions of driving fast cars is not recorded. This obstetric 'flying squad' soon had to double then treble its size and was an important factor in making the maternal mortality rate in the Oxford region the lowest in Britain.

In 1939 Stallworthy was invited by Sir Farquhar Buzzard, the Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, to take charge of a new 'Area Department' being planned in the Radcliffe Infirmary in order to bring general practitioner obstetricians into a closer working relationship with midwives and hospital consultants. In this he was highly successful and, in addition, he soon established his national and international reputation for the management of female cancers, particularly cancer of the cervix.

Moir had established the reputation of the Nuffield Department for clinical practice, teaching and research and, when he retired in 1967, Stallworthy accepted the invitation to succeed him thereby amalgamating the two departments, ultimately in the new trendsetting John Radcliffe Maternity Hospital in Headington. The department flourished under his leadership and his towering personality soon made it a focus for visitors from around the world. He was a fine, if dogmatic clinician, and an outstanding obstetric and gynaecological surgeon. Some prospered mightily under his tutelage; others, equally talented, did not. All feared him and many, but not all, idolised him.

He was President of the Institute of Religion and Medicine in 1956-58 and became Vice-President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1969. Knighted for his services to medicine in 1972, he was President of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1973 to 1975 and 1980 to 1981, and of the British Medical Association in 1975. He was awarded the BMA Gold Medal in 1981 and chaired their Working Party on the Medical Effects of Nuclear War from 1981 to 1983. Leeds University and the University of Otago both conferred the honorary degree of D Sc on him in 1975. For several years he was chairman of the governing body of Headington Girls School.

He married Margaret Howie in 1934. They had one son, Jon, the biographer, literary critic and Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, and twin daughters.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran