Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor was one of the finest British surgeons of the 20th century. He was born in Aberdeen in 1878 and educated at the University of Aberdeen, where he graduated Master of Arts in 1898. In that year he moved to London and entered the Middlesex Hospital, qualifying in 1903. He gained his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in 1906.

Gordon-Taylor quickly gained an enviable reputation as a bold yet careful surgeon. During World War I he served with the rank of major in a number of casualty clearing stations, gaining valuable experience in the treatment of large abdominal wounds, and became renowned for his successful multiple resections of the intestine. He acted for a time as consulting surgeon to the 4th Army in France. At this time he came into contact with surgeons from Australia and New Zealand.

After the war he returned to the Middlesex Hospital and in 1920 succeeded Sir John Bland-Sutton as surgeon. Surgical training was one of his great interests. He lectured and examined in anatomy for the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCSE) Primary and in 1934 travelled to Australia as Visiting Examiner for the RCSE. On this occasion he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS). He formed very close ties with the RACS and came to regard the College as his second spiritual home.

On the outbreak of World War II he again enlisted but was rejected by the army on grounds of age. Incensed, he offered his services to the Royal Navy, which accepted him without hesitation and gave him the rank of surgeon rear-admiral. As consulting surgeon he travelled widely to many of the theatres of war, and in this capacity he visited the College in 1945. He returned in 1947 to deliver the Syme Oration, and at this time the University of Melbourne awarded him an Hon. LLD.

In 1948 a group of RACS Fellows, winners of the Hallett Prize, created a fund for a prize for the candidate obtaining the highest marks in the Part 1 Examination, to be known as The Gordon-Taylor Prize. Sir Gordon travelled to Australia again in 1952. In 1960 the College commissioned a portrait of him from the eminent painter James Gunn RA.

He had an abiding interest in the RCSE. Elected to Council in 1932, he was vice-president from 1941 to 1943. He was Hunterian Professor in 1929, 1942 and 1944. His education in classics made him an excellent public speaker, and he was always in demand for lectures and orations. During the course of his career he delivered almost every named lecture in the surgical world, including the inaugural Moynihan Lecture in Leeds in 1940 and the Harveian Oration in 1949.

His life was lived for surgery. He took infrequent holidays and had few other interests, apart from dancing, the classics and cricket. He walked several miles every day for most of his life and nurtured a hearty dislike of motor cars.

He was tragically, and ironically, run down by a motor car while crossing the road outside Lord's Cricket Ground on 2 September 1960 and later died of his injuries. His passing was mourned by the entire world of surgery. At the Council Meeting of 20 October 1960, the following resolution was passed:

"The Council of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has received the news of the death of Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor with the greatest regret; and places on record its appreciation of, and gratitude for, his many kind services to the Fellows and Council of this College."


  • The Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor Memorial Lecture should be delivered annually. In any 3-year period 2 lectures should be delivered in the United Kingdom and 1 in Australia.
  • Nominations for the Lecture in Australia should be made by the President of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Nominations for the lectures to be delivered in the United Kingdom rotate between the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCSE) and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd). Nominations from RCSE to be made by the President (via the Fellowship Election and Prize Committee), in conjunction with the Senior Surgeon of the Middlesex Hospital. Alternately, the President of RCSEd will make a nomination. Nominations do not have to be agreed by all 3 Colleges.
  • The subject of the lecture may be on any aspect of surgery and is entirely the choice of the lecturer.
  • Expenses for travel and subsistence up to £250 should be provided (the honorarium was discontinued in 1994).
  • The investment of the fund, and the general administrative arrangements, shall be the responsibility of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. The local arrangements for each lecture shall be made by the institution at which it is to be delivered.
  • The award takes the form of a bronze medal, with the portrait of Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor on the obverse and emblems of the 4 sponsoring bodies on the reverse.

Gordon Gordon-Taylor Medal recipients and lecturers

(Australasia Only)

2018 - Dr Thomas Scotland - The response of Australian Medical Services to restoration of mobile warfare on Western Front in 1918
2015 - Ian Ritchie - Charles Bell : anatomist surgeon and artist

2012 - Professor Joseph W Y Lau - Development of surgery - towards the extremes
2009 - Professor Daryl Wall - By Apollo, Janus and Sir Francis Chichester, Set the Course 
2006 - Professor C Miles Little - Surgical Giants and Giants among Surgeons: The Case of Abraham Gillies
2003 - S.A. Mellick - Sir Gordon Gordon-Taylor 1878-1960: Master of Language and Surgery
2001 - Professor D. Howie - An Australian Perspective on Joint Replacement Surgery
1997 - Professor V. Fazio - Salvage of the Failed Pelvic Pouch
1987 - J.H. Heslop - Basic Surgical Training and the RACS
1984 - D.G. Macleish - The Tyranny of Words
1981 - D. Beard - The Surgeon at War
1978 - Sir Edward Dunlop - The Whole Earth is a Sepulchre of Heroes
1975 - P.J. Kenny - Metatropoi Aurai
1972 - R.S. Lawson - Amputations through the Ages
1969 - B.K. Rank - Et nova et vetera
1966 - Professor J. Loewenthal - Sidere Mutato