Hall of Fame

Sir Archibald McIndoe


Sir Archibald McIndoe (1900-1960) was born on the 4th of May, 1900 in Dunedin, New Zealand.

In 1924, McIndoe was awarded the first New Zealand Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, where he worked as a First Assistant in Pathological Anatomy from 1925 until 1927. Lord Moynihan was so impressed with his surgical skill as to suggest a permanent career in England.

Having gained an M.S. degree (Rochester), McIndoe arrived in London in the Winter of 1930 when he took up an appointment as clinical assistant in the Department of Plastic Surgery at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.  Soon afterwards, he received his first permanent appointment as a General Surgeon and Lecturer at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  In 1934, he obtained the Fellowship of the American College of Surgeons.  McIndoe held this appointment until 1939, at which time he became a consulting Plastic Surgeon to the Royal North Stafford Infirmary and to Croydon General Hospital.

In 1938, McIndoe was appointed consultant in Plastic Surgery to the Royal Air Force.  On the outbreak of the war in 1939, he selected the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead.  This hospital had been rebuilt shortly before the war.  It possessed ample land for expansion and was a suitable site for the establishment of a Centre for Plastic and Jaw surgery.

The work done by McIndoe in rehabilitating badly burned aircrew was quite outstanding, not only physically but also psychologically.  Richard Hillary, a terribly burned fighter pilot and later killed in action, gives a graphic account in "The Last Enemy" of what he and others like him owe to the skill and inspiration of McIndoe.  McIndoe fought to improve the pay and conditions of “his boys”.  He even lent them money to set them up in civilian life.  The Guinea Pig Club perpetuates his memory by an annual meeting at East Grinstead to which members come from all over the world.

After the war many honours were bestowed upon McIndoe.  He was appointed CBE in 1944, knighted in 1947 and received numerous foreign decorations.  At the Royal College of Surgeons, he became a member of Council in 1946 and vice-president in 1958.  He had been Hunterian Professor in 1939 and in 1958 was Bradshaw Lecturer, his subject being facial burns.  He helped to found the British Association of Plastic Surgeons (BAPS) and was its third President.

McIndoe’s contributions to plastic surgery are numerous.  Most notably, he placed plastic surgery on a solid and permanent foundation.  At the Queen Victoria Hospital, he built up a centre that rapidly became a model for the rest of the country.  He will be remembered best by the many to whom he gave new life and the courage to face it.  After his death, the Blond-McIndoe Research Unit was opened in his memory by the Minister of Health at the Queen Victoria Hospital on 22nd March 1961.

He married on 31st July 1924 Adonia Aitken of Dunedin, by whom he had two daughters.  The marriage was dissolved in 1953.  In 1954, he married Mrs. Constance Belcham.  He died in his sleep on the night of 11-12th April 1960.

 His ashes were buried in the Royal Air Force church of St. Clement Danes.