John Ludbrook


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The Find a Surgeon directory is a listing of active Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons who meet the requirements of the College's Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program and have opted to be on the list. This list excludes retired or inactive Fellows.


Prof. John Ludbrook  MBChB FRACS ChM MD DSc A.Stat.
30 August 1929 - 9 June 2017

John Ludbrook undertook medical studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin, and showed an early interest in medical research by completing a B.Med Sci with no less than Jack Eccles, a Nobel Laureate. His residency training was at Green Lane Hospital, Auckland, with Douglas Robb. He received a NZ Universities Travelling Scholarship and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, which allowed him to continue his post graduate surgical studies at St Mary's Hospital with Charles Rob, the celebrated pioneer of vascular surgery. 

Following some time in a 'cutting job' at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to develop his surgical skill, he returned to New Zealand in 1959 as an Assistant in the Department of Surgery, University of Otago in Dunedin, under the guidance of Gus Fraenkel (later inaugural Dean of Medicine at Flinders University, Adelaide).

In 1964 he became the Professor of Surgery at the University of New South Wales, and then in 1968 he succeeded Dick Jepson as the Dorothy Mortlock Professor of Surgery at the University of Adelaide. He introduced a strong appreciation of basic medical research to that department in his chosen specialty of vascular surgery. His enthusiasm for medical sciences led to a 1 year sabbatical in Milan, Italy in 1975, with Guiseppe Mancia and Alberto Zanchetti at the Istituto di Ricerche Cardiovasculari, University of Milan.

In 1981 he moved into full-time research by becoming the Associate Director of the Baker Medical Research Institute, and then a Senior Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Surgery at the University of Melbourne.   

Retirement was not on John's agenda, and in 1997 he then followed what had previously been an avocation and undertook a new professional pathway, and proudly became a qualified statistician (A. Stat.). This allowed him to bridge the divide between theoretical statistics and clinical research, and in this way he continued to have a major impact on medical research, and on emerging clinical researchers.

The overwhelming theme expressed by former students, colleagues and friends is of the enduring impact of a man dedicated to medicine and science, a man who was never satisfied with anything less than excellence, and a man with an insatiable curiosity and a life-long passion for knowledge and learning. This is perhaps best encapsulated by the words of a former student, Prof. Warwick Anderson, an internationally successful figure, who recently said "I owe so much to (John) in my own career. No one has been more helpful and influential, and I will be forever grateful".

John was active in the College, being a member of Council for 12 years, Chair of the Board of Examiners (1977-79), and Vice-President in 1982.

John Ludbrook was born in Auckland New Zealand on the 30th of August 1929, to Ailsa Burns and Samuel Ludbrook. Samuel was the first specialist paediatrician in New Zealand, with a busy private and public practice, and a special interest in Cerebral Palsy.

John excelled academically, attending Kings School and later Wanganui Collegiate School, where he graduated as Dux. Whilst this instilled a life-long interest in learning in the Sciences and Arts, he always remained quietly proud of his school prizes in both Divinity (?) and Boxing.

He married Margot Hardie in 1955, and they had three children, Geraldine, Guy and Alice. He later married Judith Whitworth, and they had one daughter, Emma.

The year of full time research in Milan, Italy had a major impact on both John and his family, with a life-long interest in all things Italian. John, Margot and their eldest daughter Geraldine, all studied Italian at university. Margot went on to teach and develop curricula at a secondary school level, and Geraldine is a linguist and professor at the University of Venice. John became fluent in Italian and was a passionate student of the finer points of language.

John retained a keen intellect and an interest in science and the arts until the last days of his life, and he passed away peacefully on 9 June 2017.  

 This obituary was kindly provided by Prof. Guy Ludbrook.