Obituary: Death of Middlesex Hospital surgeon Professor Leslie Le Quesne

Professor Leslie Le Quesne

Published: 08 September 2011

PROFESSOR Leslie Le Quesne, who has died aged 91, was a distinguished surgeon and teacher at the Middlesex Hospital who pioneered a new, scientific approach to the post-operative management of patients.
Born in Hampstead into a prominent family from Jersey, he enjoyed fishing and had a fascination with mari­time history and particularly with Lord Nelson’s battle wounds.
Former students who have cited his teaching as an inspiration include current President of the Royal College of Surgeons Professor Norman Williams.
Mourners packed into the chapel at St John’s Wood Church for his funeral last month, and Professor Michael Hobsley, a former colleague, described him as “much more than just a surgeon; he was a true scientist”.
In the early 1950s, a time when surgery was “akin to carpentry” according to Professor Hobsley, Professor Le Quesne produced a slim textbook about fluid balance – the delicate art of regulating quantities of various fluids fed into the veins of patients unable to eat or drink – which set the standard in this field.
Professor Hobsley, who read Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar at Professor Le Quesne’s funeral service, recalled: “We used to stand over a patient saying, ‘What should we give him? Does he look dry to you? Should we include these liquids? Should it be normal saline or 5 per cent glucose? Or blood?’ 
“For the most part we had no idea, but he [Professor Le Quesne] laid down exactly how you should proceed in a logical fashion. In retrospect it seems obvious. You just work out how much they are losing and restore it by that much. But he was the first person to do the calculations.”
Professor Hobsley added: “Whenever any surgeon was due to go abroad he would say… ‘If there is any process involving fluid balance and the restoration of electrolytes, for goodness sake get hold of Le Quesne.’”
Another colleague and close friend, University College London Medical School Vice-Dean Professor Irving Taylor, described Professor Le Quesne, who lived next to Regent’s Park and then in Chalk Farm during his adult life, as a “charming and thoughtful person”.

He said  the professor’s fundraising efforts for the Middlesex Hospital and later for University College London Hospital led to the establishment of the Pearce Gould Visiting Fellowship, under which acclaimed national and international surgeons have visited the institution to lecture. 

Professor Le Quesne’s father was a barrister, and three generations of his family and their direct ancestors were surgeons on the staff of the Middlesex and University College hospitals, spanning a period of more than a century.

When the Second World War broke out he hoped to join the navy, but problems with his sight disqualified him from service. 

He studied medicine at Oxford, graduating in 1948. Though he retired in 1990, he continued to teach as an emeritus professor at UCLH.
He was married to Pamela Margaret Le Quesne (née Fullerton), a respected neurologist, who died in 1999. 
He is survived by his two sons, Thomas and William, and five grandchildren.
A memorial service is to be arranged.
Details and donations to Médecins Sans Frontières in lieu of flowers c/o Leverton and Sons Ltd, 181 Haverstock Hill, NW3 4QS,
0207 5864221. 


Post new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.