John Eric Somerville Scott

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 28 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7098
  1. Alan Craft,
  2. Simon Court

John Eric Somerville Scott was brought up in Africa as his father was in the colonial medical service, although he later settled in Penzance as a general practitioner. He was proud of his forbears, his grandfather and uncle were diplomats in Shanghai, and he traced his roots back to the Scottish borders

His early childhood was not particularly happy, and he lost a sister after what he later thought to be an unnecessary operation to straighten her legs

He was educated at Upcot House and Sherborne, followed by Queens College Cambridge. At Cambridge during the war, he was on an accelerated training programme that filled him with a real sense of purpose and energy to learn, qualify, and serve. This sense of service, common to his generation, stayed with him throughout his life. Financial reward and self enrichment were far from his mind. He did his national service in the Royal Air Force.

After early surgical training at Great Ormond Street Hospital with Denis Browne, he won a Harkness scholarship to further develop his skills at the Boston Floating Hospital, from which he returned to Newcastle as the hospital’s first dedicated paediatric surgeon. Service to patients was his principal career driver, and he formed lasting relationships with his patients and surgical teams around the world.

He established paediatric surgery in Newcastle at the Babies Hospital, the Fleming Memorial Children’s Hospital, and the Royal Victoria Infirmary

He was an early member of the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons (BAPS) and was a longstanding secretary of that international organisation and president from 1982 to 1984.

BAPS allowed him to travel to all parts of the world as alternate year meetings were held overseas. He made lots of international friends, particularly in the United States

In 1984 he was made an honorary fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He recognised the need for good data collection and was heavily involved in the Northern Region maternity surveys and congenital abnormality registers, both of which have played an important national part in service planning and evaluation

In 1990 he was awarded the Denis Browne gold medal for services to paediatric surgery, of which he was especially proud as he had started his training with Browne.

Perhaps because of being born into a colonial family in East Africa in 1926 he had a very keen sense of fairness, logic, and integrity. He abhorred snobbery, racism, and pomposity. He was a meritocrat and modern and forward thinking. He was an intellectual, as evidenced by his many publications and his drive to instigate the congenital abnormalities registry

John was a determined and dedicated—some might say opinionated—individual, who maintained his interest in paediatric surgery and the surveys office long after retirement from clinical practice. He had strong opinions and was not afraid to act on them.

He was an adopted north easterner who loved music and was often to be seen at the Sage in Gateshead and supported the Brinkburn music concerts.

He was very proud of his two children, whom he indulged with ponies and parties.

As a young man he was an accomplished squash and tennis player, and later in life he took up riding to keep up with the children.

He leaves his wife, Audrey, and two children—one a publisher and the other a merchant banker.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7098


  • Former paediatric surgeon Newcastle upon Tyne (b 1926; q Cambridge and Middlesex 1948), d 5 September 2012.

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