|Description||Woodruff was born on 3 April 1911 at Clevistone, Langley Park, Mill Hill, London. When he was two the family moved to Australia and he was educated at Wesley College, Melbourne, and Queen's College, University of Melbourne, where he obtained a first-class degree in electrical engineering. Having doubts about a career as an engineer, he later decided to study medicine.|
Woodruff volunteered for service in the Second World War and was sent to an Australian medical unit in Malaya. When the Japanese invaded, Woodruff was interned in Changi Prison where he and his medical colleagues attempted to take care of the men who were becoming increasingly malnourished.
After the war, when he was repatriated, his expertise in the diagnosis and management of nutritional deficiency resulted in a report to the Medical Research Council. He was tutor in surgery at the University of Sheffield (1946-8) and lecturer in surgery at the University of Aberdeen (1948-52) before being appointed to the chair of surgery at the University of Otago, New Zealand, in 1953. He returned to the UK to the university chair of surgery in Edinburgh in 1960.
Woodruff's first paper on transplantation arose from work started in Sheffield studying the rejection of thyroid grafts and the protection afforded by the anterior chamber of the eye. He described the concept of adaptation which was an important advance. In Aberdeen Woodruff was one of the first to investigate anti-lymphocyte serum as an immunosuppressive agent, and this became a central topic of his academic work for many years. In New Zealand he developed his interest in the field of transplantation and achieved important experimental results.
In 1960 Woodruff performed the first identical twin kidney transplant in the UK. He built a special sterile unit for transplants because it was decided that total body x-irradiation would be used to stop rejection. Such severe sterile conditions were not in fact needed once chemical immunosuppression was introduced. The flourishing transplant unit received a severe setback in the 1970s when a lethal form of hepatitis affected kidney patients and staff, often with fatal consequences. Woodruff handled this local epidemic with great skill and eventually the disease was eliminated from his unit. He retired in 1976, but continued to work on the immunological aspects of cancer.
He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1968 and knighted in 1969 for his services to medicine. He published a major work, 'Transplantation of Tissues and Organs', in 1960, and another important book, 'The Interaction of Cancer and Host', in 1980. He published his autobiography 'Nothing Venture Nothing Win' in 1996. Woodruff died in Juniper Green, Edinburgh, on 10 March 2001.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]
Contents: Prison camp administrative records, 1942-1943; personal papers, c1946-1999; photographs, 1939-1991