Life and Times: A pioneer who was ahead of the game

Respected surgeon and professor Alexander Anton Gunn, who was among the first to apply computing technology to diagnosis, has died, aged 82.

Known to his friends and family as Tony, he was born in the Capital on 25 February, 1929, and educated at the Edinburgh Academy where he was recognised as a keen sportsman, particularly in golf, tennis and squash.

He entered the medical school of Edinburgh University in October 1945, graduating in 1950.

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After several junior hospital posts he served his two years of National Service as the regimental medical officer with the Green Howards in Colchester and Egypt.

On his return to civilian life he worked in surgical training posts and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in 1955.

He took further surgical training at the Royal Infirmary and Western General hospitals, which led to his appointment as consultant surgeon to Bangour General hospital in 1964.

He remained in that post until he retired in July 1988.

During his time at Bangour he was very involved in research – his most important works were in surgical audit and computer-aided diagnosis.

He was, with others, a pioneer in the use of surgical audit and showed it to be a valuable tool in the quality of patient care.

Computer-aided diagnosis in patients with acute abdominal pain was preceded by a study he carried out before computers were available.

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The clinical findings in patients referred to the Accident and Emergency department at Bangour with acute abdominal pain were entered on to a structured one-page record by the A&E doctor. The information on the card was later compared with the final diagnosis.

When desktop computers became available, the information on the card was fed into the computer and its response was compared with inputted data, enhancing the accuracy of diagnosis.

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Mr Gunn was also heavily involved in the work of the Royal College of Surgeons, serving as a council member from 1975 to 1985, honorary librarian from 1985 to 1998, and joint founding secretary of the Senior Fellows' Club from 1991 until 2002.

He was presented with the Farquharson Award in 1966 and the College Medal in 2006 for outstanding contributions to the college and to surgery.

An excellent teacher of anatomy and surgery to students from all over the world, Mr Gunn was known as one of these people who had the facility for communicating his thoughts, ideas and knowledge clearly both orally and in writing.

He was the author of 57 articles and with others of several chapters in surgical textbooks and was also on the editorial board of the British Journal of Surgery.

He and his wife Dorothy moved to Yetholm in 1985 into a house called The Wickets, the name chosen by the previous owners who were mad on cricket, especially Test matches.

He became a member of Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society in 1979 and he was also a member of Minto Golf Club.

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He retained his golfing abilities, particularly his long drives, until he was forced by illness to give up the game.

Sadly, his final years were shadowed by illness, but he was always surrounded by loving care. Dorothy and one son predeceased him.

He is survived by three daughters, a son and eight grandchildren.