Lives of the fellows

Alphonso Liguori d'Abreu

b.5 August 1906 d.19 April 1976
CBE(1968) OBE(1944) MRCS LRCP(1929) MB BCh Birm(1929) FRCS(1932) ChM Birm(1935) FRCP*(1968)

Alphonso d’Abreu was elected a Fellow of the College under the provisions of Bye-Law 39(b) in 1968. He was one of the most outstanding members of the profession of his time. The son of John Francis d’Abreu, a general practitioner in Birmingham, he was educated at Stonyhurst College and the University of Birmingham, from which he graduated in medicine in 1930. Two years later he was elected FRCS, and from then until 1939 he perfected his surgical skills in the teaching hospitals in Birmingham and Cardiff.

During the 1939 — 1945 war he served with distinction at home and overseas with the RAMC, and was appointed OBE in 1944 and mentioned in despatches the following year. After the war he was acting professor of surgery in the University of Wales for a year, before being appointed to the part time consulting staff of the Birmingham United Hospitals. He quickly became the leading surgeon in the Midlands and soon gave up general surgery in order to devote himself entirely to cardiothoracic work, which was always his major interest. His Practice of Thoracic Surgery, which ran to four editions, became the standard work of reference, and he was one of the pioneers of the surgery of congenital heart disease, rheumatic heart disease and bypass surgery.

His great energy and surgical skill, his strikingly handsome appearance and his wonderful charm and kindness cast a spell over everyone with whom he come in contact, and from his earliest years it was obvious that he would achieve distinction in the profession.

From 1959 to 1963 he was professor of cardiac surgery, and from 1963 to 1971 Barling professor of surgery in the University of Birmingham. He was dean of the Faculty of Medicine in Birmingham (1959-1963), and at the Royal College of Surgeons he was twice Hunterian Professor, a member of the court of examiners (1956-1962), and of the council (1963 -1975) and vice-president. He was a member of the medical subcommittee of the University Grants Committee (1963-1972), president of the section of surgery of the Royal Society of Medicine (1966-1967), a member of the Central Health Services Committee of the Ministry of Health (1964-1971), president of the Thoracic Society (1968 — 1969) and of the Society of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (1969 -1970). In 1967 he was visiting professor of surgery at Harvard. He was honorary colonel of the medical services of the 42nd Division (TA) (1963-1966) and consulting surgeon to the British Army (1964-71). He was appointed CBE in 1968 and was a Deputy Lieutenant for Warwickshire. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Courtney Throckmorton, and there were three daughters of the marriage.

‘Pon’, as he was always called, had intelligence, elegance, energy and manual dexterity to a degree only encountered once in every two or three generations. His enormous success and achievements were inevitable, as were the many honours thrust upon him, but he remained ever modest and unassuming, gentle, courteous, considerate and kind to everyone. He did more for British medicine than almost anyone of his generation and in return he was one of the best loved and most respected members of the profession. Unhappily his later years were clouded by illness and disability, which he bore with a fortitude, courage and cheerfulness that was admired by all who knew him.

AGW Whitfield

* Elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature.."

[Brit.med.J., 1976, 1, 1078, 1155; Lancet, 1976, 1, 1028]

(Volume VII, page 132)

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