Lives of the fellows

John Kenneth Wagstaff

b.24 May 1918 d.2010
MB BChir Cantab(1942) MRCP LRCP(1942) MRCP(1948) MD(1953) FRCP(1970)

John Kenneth Wagstaff was a consultant physician at Brighton and Hove Hospitals. Born in Hampstead, he was the son of Charles John Leonard, a headmaster, and his wife, Marjorie née Bloomer, whose father, George Caleb, was also a teacher. Educated at King Edward VII Grammar School in King’s Lynn, he studied medicine at Cambridge University and the London Hospital, where, after qualifying, he did house jobs in 1942.

He enrolled in the RAMC later that year, as a lieutenant in the 225 Parachute Field Ambulance. Promoted to captain two years later, he was, apparently, parachuted into France early on D Day. He served with the 7th Parachute battalion until 1946 when he was sent to Palestine with the medical division, 91st General Hospital. He never spoke of his wartime experiences and his family only found out about them some 40 years later.

On demobilisation he returned to the London in 1947, before joining the staff of the Brighton General Hospital as a senior medical registrar the following year. Moving to Edinburgh in 1953, he became research registrar at the gastrointestinal unit of the Western General Hospital, where he stayed for 10 years before being appointed consultant physician to the Brighton and Lewes Group of hospitals and clinical tutor to the Sussex Postgraduate Medical Centre. An enthusiastic innovator, he developed the endoscopy service in Brighton and carried out the first successful endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography.

He was an inspiring teacher and, having been awarded the Wyeth travel fellowship in 1982, he taught medicine in Iraq. Along with his various publications on gastrointestinal problems, he published an important paper on the treatment of diabetes – ‘Some effects of recent research on the practical management of diabetes’ (Geront clin 1967, 9, 11).

He enjoyed tennis, dinghy sailing, hill walking and woodwork.

In 1953 he married Elizabeth née Gilbertson, whose father, Albert James, was also a medical practitioner. They had four daughters. On his retirement he moved to Durham with his wife and became chair of the botanic gardens. When he died from a cerebral haemorrhage, he was survived by Elizabeth, their children and eight granddaughters, five of whom have become medically qualified.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2010 341 5585 - accessed 4 May 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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