Sir Michael Woodruff

1911 - 2001

Medical scientist. Born in London, the son of a professor of veterinary medicine, within a year Woodruff moved to Melbourne (Australia) with his father's job. He completed a degree in engineering in Melbourne but switched to medicine, graduating for a second time in 1937. He served in the Australian Army Medical Corps during World War II and was held captive by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore, during which time he helped his fellow prisoners by developing a mechanism to extract vitamins from waste food.

Woodruff returned to the UK in 1947, first to Sheffield but was able to secure a Senior Lectureship at the University of Aberdeen the following year, where he worked in the field of tissue rejection following skin grafts. He occupied the Chair of Surgery at Dunedin in New Zealand between 1953 and 1957, before returning to take up the Chair of Surgical Science at the University of Edinburgh. Woodruff continued his work in tissue rejection and this led to him performing the UK's first kidney transplant at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in 1960. He went on to perform more than a hundred kidney transplants there, and at the Western General Hospital, before retiring from the University of Edinburgh in 1976. He then spent ten years working in cancer research.

During his career, Woodruff published seven books and wrote numerous scientific papers. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1958, of the Royal Society in 1968 (Vice-President, 1979) and knighted in 1969. He died in Edinburgh.

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