Remembering former Dean of The Faculty of Dental Surgery, Gordon Robert Seward
23 Nov 2022
Gordon Robert Seward was born in the East End of London and received his education at the prestigious Hackney Downs Grammar School where he excelled in the sciences. As a member of the Army Cadet Corps, he was a Corporal and also a school prefect. His science master was so impressed with his knowledge of the natural world that he arranged for Gordon to be attached to the science museum during school holidays.
In 1944, he entered the London Hospital Dental School which at the time was much depleted as many of the staff had gone off to fight in the war. However, Gordon won prizes in Dental Surgery, Pathology and Radiology. Whilst an undergraduate, he assisted the senior lecturer in oral pathology preparing specimens and assisting in practicals. Gordon qualified LDSRCS and BDS with distinctions in surgery and dental surgery.
After initial house jobs, he undertook his National Service in the Royal Army Dental Corps eventually with the rank of Captain. During this time, he gained experience in treating the injuries of soldiers returning from the Middle and Far East. Following national service, Gordon returned to The London studying for the FDS and undertaking research for the Masters degree in Dental Surgery. In 1953, he enrolled at The London as a medical student qualifying in 1957 with distinctions in surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology. By 1958, he was Senior Registrar in oral surgery. In 1959, he became the first full time Lecturer and the following year was promoted to Senior Lecturer. In order to gain further experience, he visited many other units including Patey’s at the Middlesex Hospital where he learnt the dissection of the facial nerve. He also spent time in New Orleans.
In 1962, he was appointed Reader and six years later Professor. His colleagues elected him Dean of Dental Studies in 1975. In 1977, he was elected to the Board of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and in 1986 was elected Dean of the Faculty. During this appointment, one of his greatest pleasures was awarding an Honorary Fellowship to Princess Diana.
Gordon’s contributions to Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery were recognised by the award of Honorary Fellowships from the Royal Colleges of Edinburgh and England and many prestigious medals and prizes. He contributed widely to the scientific literature and wrote an authoritative book on Joseph Merrick, the ‘Elephant Man’, who after a hard life earning a living in freak shows was given refuge at the London Hospital by the surgeon Frederick Treves.
Gordon Seward was one of the pioneers in the development of maxillofacial surgery, undertaking parotid gland surgery and major resections and reconstruction for mouth cancers long before these became mainstream for the specialty. With his death we have lost a true friend.
John Langdon FKC
Emeritus Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
King’s College London