Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Royal Profile: Sir George Pinker

A member of a family that can trace their history back to the Norman Conquest, he was possessed with a fine baritone voice. When he turned down a contract with the D'Oyle Carte Company to pursue a medical career, little did he know that in the process he would modernize the delivery of royal babies.

George Douglas Pinker was born on December 6th, 1924 in Calcutta, India, the second son of Queenie Elizabeth née Dix and Ronald Douglas Pinker, a horticulturist who worked for Sutton's Seeds for 40 years and headed the bulb and flower department for 25 years. At the time of George's birth he ran Sutton Seeds Indian Branch in Calcutta. His older brother Kenneth Hubert was born in Reading on September 15th, 1919.

Kenneth and George returned to England and were looked after by their aunts. At the age of four he and his brother were sent to the exclusive all-boys Reading School in the town of Reading, Berkshire, England. In 1942 he entered St Mary's Hospital Medical School, Paddington, qualifying as a doctor in 1947. As a student in 1946, when the Music Society put on its first post-war production, The Mikado, he sang one of the leading roles. His first brush with royalty came when Queen Elizabeth attended the performance as patron of both the hospital and the medical school, accompanied by the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret.

During his time at St. Mary's he decided to specialize in obstetrics. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Singapore, where he did much of his specialist training. He continued his training in Oxford and London. In 1958, at the age of 33, he was appointed a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology in 1958 to St. Mary's Hospital and Samaritan Hospital for Women, both of which he served for the next 31 years. He also held the position of Consulting Gynaecological Surgeon to Middlesex Hospital, Soho hospital for women, Bolingbroke hospital in Battersea, and the Radcliffe Infirmary from 1969-1980. He accepted willingly an increasing involvement with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, serving as Honorary Treasurer, 1970-77. He was a past president of the British Fertility Society and supported the research that led to the birth in 1978 of Louise Brown, the first test-tube baby.

His work at the Royal College earned him international respect amongst obstetricians and gynaecologists. In 1980 he was elected Vice-President and finally President in 1987. Indeed, so respected is his opinion that to this day, according to his nephew Martin Pinker: "My daughter is expecting twins and she's been going to Mount Sinai hospital. All the top doctors in the hospital, all know George Pinker. The minute she goes in with the name Pinker they say, have you anything to do with George. 'Oh yes, he's my great-great uncle.' So she's getting very special attention. "

He gave his own special attention to his patients. Staff liked and respected him, and patients adored him, According to a family anecdote: "...during the interval an performance at the Royal Opera House a lady went into labor. The house manager knew that George was in the audience so he rushed into the Crush Bar and asked in anyone knew Sir George Pinker. At which point 20 - 70 women raised their hands." *

In 1964 he and several distinguished colleagues founded Childbirth Research Centre in 1964. It would eventually change it's name to Birthright in 1972. In the late nineties the name was changed again to Wellbeing of Women. Diana, Princess of Wales, whose two sons had been delivered by him, became a patron in 1984.

In 1973 he succeeded Sir John Peel as surgeon gynaecologist to the Queen. The youngest person to be appointed to the post, which he held until 1990. He would deliver nine royal babies, starting with the Earl of Ulster, Lady Rose Windsor, Lady Davina Windsor, Lord Frederik Windsor, Lady Gabriella Windsor, Peter Phillips, Zara Phillips, Prince William, and Prince Harry. All of these births took place at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington. A significant break with royal tradition; prior to this all royal births had taken place at a royal residence.

He was appointed a CVO in 1983 and a KCVO in 1990. In the same year he authored the book 'Preparing for Pregnancy'. In 1991 he edited 'Clinical Gynecological Oncology'. He also contributed to several books - Diseases of Women by Ten Teachers (1964), Obstetrics by Ten Teachers (1964), A Short Textbook of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (1967).
His pastimes included a love of music, particularly Opera. He became assistant concert director of Reading Symphony Orchestra and then vice-president of the London Choral Society in 1988. He was a keen skier, sailor, gardener and hill-walker.

On March 31st, 1951 he married Dorothy Emma Russell, a former nurse. The couple would have four children: Catherine & Ian (twins), Robert and William. His wife died in 2003. In his last years he was disabled by Parkinson's disease and partial blindness and he died in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire on April 29 2007.

© Marilyn Braun 2008

Thank you to Martin Pinker for information on Sir George's early years and Pinker family history. For more information on Martin Pinker visit this link.

* Trevor Pinker website: The Oxford

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