Obituary - Dr George Edward Hale Enderby

1915 to 2003

Hale Enderby, who has died aged 88, was a leading anaesthetist, best known for his original work in developing hypotensive anaesthesia, a technique of lowering blood pressure during surgery to facilitate intricate and complex operations while controlling loss of blood from the patient.

In 1948-49 the pharmacologists Peter and Zaimis described for the first time a range of new drugs, some of which were effective in lowering blood pressure. Enderby realised the potential of these agents, and started using them in anaesthesia. At first this was fraught with difficulty, since techniques of measuring low blood pressures were not available. A significant contribution was Enderby's introduction of the oscillotonometer, an earlier and almost forgotten method of blood pressure measurement, which proved capable of measuring these low pressures.

In 1950 he published his first paper on Hypotensive Anaesthesia, and went on to publish more than 25 papers on the subject in medical journals. At one time, as the result of this work, he was one of the best known anaesthetists in the world.

George Edward Hale Enderby was born at Boston, Lincolnshire, where his father was the local optician, on June 9 1915. His early education was at Boston Grammar School and at Kingswood School, Bath, where he won the Victor Ludorum at sports and was awarded a scholarship to study Medicine at St John's College, Cambridge, in 1934. There he captained his college athletics club and excelled in the hurdles and discus. He later trained in London at Guy's Hospital, qualifying in Medicine and Surgery.

During the Second World War, he joined the Emergency Medical Service after been turned down for military service owing to a duodenal ulcer. He worked initially at Guy's Hospital and then at Pembury Hospital, Kent, where much of Guy's was moved after the hospital was bombed at the start of the war. It was there that he was asked to move into anaesthesia.

Later he moved to Rooksdown House, Basingstoke, a plastic and reconstructive surgery unit under Sir Harold Gillies, where he worked alongside the surgeons repairing injured and burned servicemen. He gained the Diploma of Anaesthesia in 1943.

At the end of the war he took posts at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, and the Metropolitan Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital. He also continued at Basingstoke one day a week.

In 1947 he was invited to Bergen in Norway, where he spent a month teaching anaesthesia for the reconstructive surgery being undertaken there. In 1951 he moved to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead; while there he worked for many years with the eminent plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe. Two years later Enderby became a Fellow of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons.

He travelled widely, lecturing on hypotensive anaesthesia at home and abroad. He also did further physiological research with the Westminster Hospital Anaesthetic Department in 1973.

Hale Enderby contributed a chapter to the Textbook of Anaesthesia by Gray, Nunn and Utting, and in 1984 he published his own book, Hypotensive Anaesthesia, which became a classic in its field.

At the same time he also worked in London with Sir Edward Muir, President of the College of Surgeons, whose specialty was general surgery. In the early 1960s Enderby had a growing private practice and spent much time at his Harley Street flat, where he was near to his work, until his eventual retirement in 1984. As well as having a busy private practice, he became an examiner for the final fellowship examinations for the Faculty of Anaesthetists from 1976 to 1981, and was elected to the Council of the Faculty (1977-83), where his fund-raising efforts culminated in his being awarded a Faculty Gold Medal.

He was President of the Anaesthetic Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, for which he received a Gold Medal. After his retirement he worked as an expert witness for the Medical Defence Union and made many court appearances on its behalf.

Hale Enderby was a keen golfer, serving as captain of the Medical Golfing Society in 1965 and President in 1972-73. He was a member of the Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club and continued to play there into his eighties. He also played tennis to a high standard and, for many years, enjoyed driving Bentleys.

A dedicated Freemason, Hale Enderby was a founder member of the John Snow Lodge for anaesthetists and was a member of Aescalapius and Rose Croix Lodges.

Hale Enderby, who died on 30 December 2003, is survived by his wife, Dorothy, whom he married in 1940, and by their son and two daughters.

This obituary was originally published in The Daily Telegraph on 4 February 2004.