Lives of the fellows

Eardley Launcelot (Sir) Holland

b.29 October 1879 d.21 July 1967
Kt(1946) MB BS Lond(1905) MD(1907) FRCS(1907) MRCP(1908) FRCP(1920) FRCOG(1929)

Eardley Holland’s outstanding contributions to obstetrics and gynaecology in basic and clinical research, in clinical practice, in teaching, in writing and in administration earned him a rightful place in the highest ranks of those who engaged in his specialty over a period of more than half a century.

He was born in 1879, the eldest son of the Rev. W.C. Holland, Rector of Puttenham. From school at Murchison College he went to King’s College Hospital with a Warneford entrance scholarship to begin his medical career. Honours in his final examination, a gold medal in his MD, the acquisition of the FRCS and MRCP within a single year, all revealed his ability and calibre. Within three years of qualification he was appointed registrar and tutor at Kings. He was appointed to the honorary staff at Kings in 1914, but after only two years accepted a similar post at the London Hospital, where the opportunities for the clinical research in which he was so interested were so much greater at that time. Before this Holland had spent a year in Berlin, with Professors Olhausen, Bumm and Orth where he learned much of the techniques of vaginal surgery in which he later excelled. During that year he acquired many friendships with, and much admiration for, his German colleagues, which stayed with him for the rest of his life.

In 1911, three years before he was appointed to the honorary staff, he had made such an impression among the leaders of his profession that he was elected a member of a very select group of gynaecologists - the Gynaecological Visiting Society. It was from this group that later emerged the British (later Royal) College of Obstetricians. He was honorary Treasurer for the first nine years and President from 1943-46. His influence on the development of the young College was very great.

In 1922 began his close association with the Ministry of Health, when he was asked to prepare a report on the causes of stillbirth, and this incorporated his classical research into the causes of stillbirth in breech presentation. Later, he was responsible for the Report on a National Maternity Service, produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which had an important influence on many of the main principles associated with the impending National Health Service in 1948. He acted as Adviser to the Ministry between 1937 and 1940, and during the war organized the evacuation of pregnant women from London to safer rural areas, taking personal charge of the running of the Emergency Service in Hertfordshire.

As an author and writer Holland excelled. He was a master of the written word. Eden and Holland’s Manual of Obstetrics was a classic, and his co-authorship with Aleck Bourne of British Obstetric and Gynaecological Practice produced a work of outstanding merit. He wrote, after years of painstaking research, A triple Obstetric Tragedy, recording the details surrounding the pregnancy and delivery of Princess Charlotte of Wales in 1819.

Eardley Holland was a very human person. He thoroughly enjoyed the eminence to which his professional ability carried him and the honours that came his way in consequence. His kindness and consideration towards his juniors was something many will recall with gratitude. To his contemporaries he was sometimes far from polite if he disagreed with them, which gained him a reputation as an irascible person, and hence he was not universally popular although all acknowledge his outstanding abilities and his great contributions to medicine.

The Eardley Holland Medal, awarded every five years to the person who is judged by Council to have contributed most in the previous year to the advancement of Obstetrics and Gynaecology will remain as a permanent memorial in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He showed his wisdom in stipulating the five year interval because he realized that really great and significant contributions do not occur all that frequently.

His private life was a happy one. He married Dorothy, the eldest daughter of Dr Henry Colgate, and there were three daughters. His wife died in 1951, and some years later he married Olivia, daughter of L.L. Carstalle, JP. With her he was able to retire to his country house in Sussex, to reflect on his achievements of the past, enjoy his cultural interests, his garden and his home, and welcome his many friends and admirers. He died peacefully in his 88th year, although it must be recorded that failing health and strength during the final two or three years of his life robbed him of many of the enjoyments of previous years.

Sir John Peel

[Brit.med.J., 1967,3, 313, 378; Lancet, 1967, 2,268; Times, 22 July 1967, 9 & 30 Aug 1967]

(Volume VI, page 249)

<< Back to List