Lives of the fellows

Gordon Arthur (Sir) Ransome

b.6 May 1910 d.18 June 1978
KBE(1972) CBE(1962) MRCS LRCP(1933) MRCP(1935) PJG Singapore(1967) DTMH(1969) DJMK Datuk(1969) Hon MD Singapore(1969)

Gordon Ransome was professor of medicine at the University of Singapore, and a pioneer of modern medicine in Singapore and the territories of Malaysia. He was born in Salop, England, the son of Maurice John Ransome, rector of Pulverbatch, and was educated at Dauntsey’s School and London University. He qualified in medicine from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1933, subsequently holding house appointments in several London hospitals and obtaining his MRCP in 1935. During this time he also attended courses at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. After six years of postgraduate training he left England for Singapore in 1938, on his appointment to King Edward VII College of Medicine as associate professor. Together with RB Hawes, then head of the department of medicine, he established a clinical laboratory at Tay Tock Seng Hospital and there, with the help of other outstanding physicians, turned out many well trained doctors with the LMS diploma. They formed the nucleus of those men and women who cared for the sick and wounded in Singapore during the second world war and the Japanese occupation. Today, the standing of the medical graduates of the University of Singapore is second to none in Asia, and much of the credit for this must go to Gordon Ransome. An able clinician and administrator who never allowed his outlook to be blinkered by specialization, he set a high standard and fine example.

After the capitulation of Singapore to the Japanese, Gordon Ransome was the subject of some criticism because of his decision to escape to India to carry on his work. To do this, he deliberately faced great dangers and his later work in India and Burma fully justified his decision. He investigated the problems of salt and water balance, pioneered the management of unconscious patients, dealt with cholera epidemics and established specific methods of treatment for cerebral malaria. He held the rank of major in the 12th Army, was twice mentioned in despatches, and ended the war as a lieutenant colonel. He was elected a fellow in 1947.

On demobilization he returned to Singapore as acting head of the department of medicine at the General Hospital, and in 1948 he was appointed professor of medicine at King Edward VII College of Medicine. Among his many professional appointments he was honorary consultant to the Sultan of Kelantan, who bestowed the Datoship (DJMK) on him in 1969; the same year in which he was awarded an honorary doctorate of medicine by the University of Singapore. In 1967 he received the Meritorious Service Medal (PJG) in Singapore’s National Day Awards. He was appointed a CBE in 1962, and a KBE in 1972. He was the first master of the Academy of Physicians and Surgeons in Singapore, which he had been instrumental in founding, and which later became the Academy of Medicine, Singapore. He was a member of the Singapore Medical Council, and ex-president of the Association of Physicians, Malaya. He contributed some 22 papers to scientific journals, both in Singapore and abroad. Although an excellent general physician and outstanding administrator, his greatest interest was in neurology. His name is perpetuated in Singapore by such foundations as the Academy of Medicine and by the biennial Gordon Arthur Ransome oration.

Gordon married twice. In 1940 his wife was Eryl Arundel and they had a daughter. In 1955 he married Daphne Mary, daughter of Colonel Lawrence George Beach RE, and they had three children: two sons and a daughter.

As a man Gordon Ransome was kind and softly spoken. He had the serenity to accept what could not be changed, the courage to change what could be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference. He was always ready to answer any cry for help from patients, staff or colleagues. He had a reputation for being absentminded, but time was of no consequence to him if someone needed him. He would sometimes wax philosophical and regarded worry as a destroyer of clear thinking. Although a prominent figure in Singapore society, his life style was simple. He enjoyed hunting, shooting and fishing, and read military and medical history. He had many devoted friends and his influence on the multiracial culture of Singapore was unique. He can be said to have served Singapore and medicine to the utmost of his ability.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

[The Telegram, Singapore, 21 June 1978; Brit.med.J., 1978, 2, 508, 644 and 1440; Ann. Acad. Med. Singapore, 1 Jan 1972; 6 Oct 1977; Farewell Address, July 1975; Mem. Service, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore, 20 July 1978]

(Volume VII, page 485)

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