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Sir Terence English

Terence Alexander Hawthorne English was born in Pietermaritzburg in 1932 and completed his school education at Hilton College. His father, who died of silicosis when Sir Terence was very young, had been a mining engineer, and, following in his footsteps, Sir Terence studied engineering, obtaining his degree from Wits in 1954.

In response to the encouragement of an uncle who was a surgeon in the then Natal, and with the help of an inheritance from another uncle, Terence English left for Guy s Hospital Medical School in London, where he completed a medical degree and then specialised in cardiothoracic surgery. Sir Terence told the South African Medical Journal in an interview some ten years ago that he had never made a conscious decision to leave South Africa. As he put it, "the intention at that time was simply to qualify in medicine, but inevitably one thing leads to another and, having qualified, having done house jobs, one then becomes dependent on the people you have worked for to help you in the next way".

In fact, soon after graduating from the University of London, Sir Terence did return to South Africa for an important working visit. In 1963, South African-born cardiothoracic surgeon Professor Donald Ross, under whom Sir Terence had worked and whom he considered a highly influential mentor, had worked at Groote Schuur Hospital and it was at his instigation that Sir Terence went to Groote Schuur to work with Professor Chris Barnard. In 1967 Barnard performed the world s first successful heart transplant.

Professor Ross soon attempted to follow suit in the United Kingdom, but his early transplants failed. It was not until 12 years after Barnard s transplant, and after considerable ethical and technical turmoil in the United Kingdom, that Sir Terence performed the first successful heart transplant there. The operation was financed by the Cambridge Area Local Health Authority because the United Kingdom s Department of Health had placed a moratorium on funding such surgery.

By then Sir Terence had moved to Papworth and Addenbrooke, teaching hospitals of the University of Cambridge, and set up a heart transplant programme at the Papworth Hospital, a move that heralded a long association with the city of Cambridge and its university. He directed the British Heart Foundation Heart Transplant Unit there from 1980 to 1998, during which time many hundreds of successful heart transplants were performed and Sir Terence received the Clement Price Thomas Award for distinguished services to surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Sir Terence s association with the city of Cambridge culminated in his appointment as Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Cambridgeshire, and with its university by his appointment as Master of St Catharine s College.

Sir Terence s illustrious career in academic medicine has extended far beyond the remarkable skill of that first heart transplant and its successors. He has published more than 100 papers on heart transplantation and related issues and has contributed more than 20 chapters to medical textbooks. He served as President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England from 1989 to 1992, his efficiency, patience and charm eliciting the description of him in the British Medical Journal as "perhaps the best president of any of the medical royal colleges since the war".

He also served as President of the International Society of Heart Transplantation and as President of the British Medical Association. He was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa in 1991 and holds honorary fellowships of at least another nine medical colleges in the United Kingdom and throughout the world. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Nantes (France), Sussex and Hull Universities (United Kingdom) and Mahidol University (Thailand). He has given numerous lectures, including the Wernicke-Marks Lecture in Harare in 1990, and has served on many committees, boards and trusts, in the public interest, including the United Kingdom s Audit Commission. He was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1991.

Sir Terence retired from the Papworth Hospital in 1995 and as Master of St Catharine s College six years later. He is an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine s and of Worcester College (Oxford) and King s College (London). Were the small band of honorary fellows of St Catharine s to meet, it would be a significant theatrical occasion because he shares that distinction with Sir Peter Hall and Sir Ian McKellen, both graduates of St. Catharine s. Since retiring, Sir Terence has spent much of his time in Pakistan helping to train Pakistani doctors in trauma care.

Sir Terence has made a personal contribution to overcoming the traditional rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford. Former Master of a Cambridge college, he is married to the head of an Oxford college (St Hilda's), Lady Judith, an academic psychiatrist of considerable repute.

In recognition of his contributions to cardiovascular surgery practice and research and to the advancement of the profession of surgery and of health care, the University considers it fitting to award him its highest honour: the degree of Doctor of Medicine honoris causa at a graduation ceremony held on 13 March 2008.