Lives of the fellows

Geoffrey Harold Tovey

b.29 May 1916 d.29 November 2001 2001
CBE(1974) MB ChB Bristol(1940) MD(1944) FRCPath(1964) MRCP(1968) FRCP(1974)

Geoffrey Harold Tovey was an internationally known haematologist, an expert on serology, and a founder and director of the UK Transplant Service. He was born in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, the son of Harold John Tovey, an architect. His mother, Gertrude Mary née Taylor, the daughter of a timber merchant, died of acute pneumonia when Geoffrey was a child. He was educated at Wycliffe College, funded by an aunt, and then went to Bristol to study medicine, graduating in 1940.

He held house posts in Bristol and then, in 1941, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. At first he was with the 8th Field Ambulance, and was then attached to the Army Blood Transfusion Service. From 1945 to 1946, he was officer in command of a base transfusion unit, Indian Command. His experiences in the Army greatly influenced his decision to specialise in haematology.

Following his demobilisation with the rank of major in 1946, he was appointed as director of the South West Regional Blood Transfusion Service and as a clinical lecturer in haematology at the University of Bristol. He had at this stage developed an interest in rhesus incompatibility. Between 1946 and 1948 he personally exchange-transfused the blood of babies born with jaundice as a result of this condition. He was also one of the first doctors to perform intra-uterine blood transfusions on unborn babies. Later, in 1959, he recommended the induction of babies at 36 weeks, to prevent stillbirth in babies with rhesus haemolytic disease, a move which saved many lives.

He was also an expert serologist. He carried out early work on the typing of red cells and their antigens, white blood cells, and the transfusion of platelets and stem cells in the treatment of leukaemia. He collaborated with many of the early transplant surgeons, including Christiaan Barnard and Sir Roy Calne.

In 1972 he founded the UK Transplant Service, which matches donor organs to recipients. He was a consultant adviser on blood transfusion to the Department of Health and Social Security from 1979 to 1981, and an adviser to the British Army.

As a consultant to the World Health Organization, he advised many countries on the safe development of blood services. He was also president of the International Society of Blood Transfusion.

He co-authored many papers, and wrote Technique of fluid balance. Principles and management of water and electrolyte therapy (Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh and London, 1957), as well as chapters in other textbooks.

He married Margaret Beryl Davies, a nurse, in 1941. They had two sons, one of whom predeceased him. An academic centre at Bristol University has been named in his honour.

RCP editor

[Daily Telegraph 20 December 2001]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List