On Friday 14th July 1950, an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland was held in the Guild Hall, Bath. The meeting had been called by president Alexander Graham Bryce after receiving a letter from Dr Brian Blades, secretary of the American Association for Thoracic surgery (AATS). This letter announced the formation of a travelling fellowship for the study of thoracic surgery in the United States or Canada with a value of $10,003. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland had been invited to nominate the first recipient of the fellowship.
Present at the meeting were:
- The president, G. Bryce,
- Secretary O.S. Tubbs
- Committee members P.R. Allison, V.C. Thompson, A. Logan and L.L. Whytehead.
They decided that the privilege of selecting the candidate should rest with the Executive Committee. The fellowship was advertised to all members and associate members of the Society and also announced in the British Medical Journal on 12th August 1950 (figure 1 below).
Fig 1: The notice in the British Medical Journal announcing the first AATS fellowship in 1950.
One year later, on 18th July 1951, the Executive considered the four candidates who had applied and ‘after long and careful consideration it was unanimously agreed to recommend LL Whytehead.’4 In 1952 and 1953 the Executive Committee selected the second and third recipients of the fellowship. However, at its meeting on 11th November 1954, in light of comments from Sir Russell Brock that ‘a number of approaches had been made to him with regard to elements of dissatisfaction that had been felt in America concerning Fellows’ , the Executive decided to begin interviewing candidates for the Fellowship.
The following year the Society heard from the AATS that these rumours had no substance. From the minutes, one can almost hear the sigh of relief when the rumour was dismissed. From that point onward, the selection of the travelling fellow was the first standing item of business at most Executive Committee meetings. It was not surprising that there was a good relationship between the two professional societies, as many of the senior members of the specialty in Great Britain had undertaken at least some of their training in America5.
In November 1955, the Executive Committee formed a sub-committee to discuss how the British Society could show its gratitude for the generosity of the AATS. Their report from 23rd February 1956 described three options:
· A similar reciprocal scholarship
· A shorter reciprocal scholarship
· A simple gift of a chain of office for the President of the AATS
The final option was selected, probably because of financial considerations.
The Presidential Badge and Chain of Office for the AATS
The twentieth Annual Meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland was held at the Institute of Engineers in Cardiff on the 2nd and 3rd November 1956. At the business meeting, there was the usual approval of the previous minutes, confirmation of officers, and presentation of accounts. The first item of new business was the proposed design of the Presidential Badge and Chain of Office to be given to the AATS; the design was shown and accepted. The cost was to be met by a one-time assessment of £2 for full members and £1 for associate members.
The commission for the design and making of the Badge and Chain (figure 2) was given to Stanley G. Morris. We have no records about the commission or how Stanley G. Morris was selected. However, at the time he was one of the country’s leading designers and craftsmen and one of the few who had the skill to design as well as fabricate. Stanley G. Morris lived from 1919 to 2010 and was a fourth generation silversmith from Birmingham. He trained at the Birmingham School of Jewellery and Silversmithing and School of Art. During his training, he was supported by prestigious Junior and Senior scholarships from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. In 1947 he set up his own workshop in Birmingham. Much of his work was ecclesiastical; examples can be found in many churches across the country. Morris achieved national recognition when his ‘Olympic Symbolic Torch’, designed and made with Bernard Cuzner, another renowned Birmingham silversmith, won Bronze Medal in the 23rd Olympiad Arts Competition in 1948. His work was also showcased at The Festival of Britain in 1951. He created pieces for many prestigious people including a cup presented by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen’s mother, to the flower growers of London and a bowl presented to Princess Margaret. His last major commission, in 1992, was to build the Westland Aviation Trophy, presented to the best all round student on the Rotary Wing Course at the Empire Test Pilots’ School.
Fig. 2 The Presidential Badge and Chain of Office of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, front and back
Fig 3: The presentation of the Presidential Badge and Chain of Office to the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, 1957.
Left to right (we think!) J.L. Collis, Secretary SCTS, G.A. Mason, Vice-President SCTS, C. Haight, President AATS.
The Presidential Badge and Chain of Office was presented to Dr Cameron Haight, AATS President, by J.L. Collis, Secretary and GA Mason, Vice-President of SCTS at the Annual Meeting in Chicago Illinois between 4th and 7th May 19579 (figure 3). The Chain of Office contained 17 links; after each annual AATS meeting, a link on the chain was engraved with the president’s name and year of term. In 1973 Morris made a second Chain of Office, as the links on the first were full (figure 4).
Fig 4: Stanley Morris with the American Association Presidential Badge and the second Chain of Office, the first Chain is in the foreground. January 1973. Reproduced courtesy of Mirropix.
The Presidential Medal of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery
In planning the Presidential Medal to be given to SCTS, the AATS wished to recognise William Harvey. On
1st August 1600, Harvey was elected as the British representative to the world’s leading medical school at the University of Padua. Each representative or ‘consiliarius’ had a coat of arms, symbol or Stemma engraved on a tablet in the Great Hall of the University. Harvey chose as his Stemma an arm and hand holding the torch of truth; this forms the centrepiece of the design of the Presidential Medal. Two serpents, associated with Aesculapius, the Greek God of medicine, entwine the torch (figure 5).
The task of making the medal, in 14 carat yellow gold, was given to Allan Adler, who like Stanley G Morris, was the leading silversmith in America at the time. Allan Adler lived from 1916 to 2002, and initially worked as a building contractor. In 1938 he married Rebecca Blanchard, the daughter of Porter Blanchard one of America’s foremost silversmiths. He served a two-year apprenticeship with Porter and set up his own business in Los Angeles in 1940. His shop Sunset Boulevard attracted many stars, including Katherine Hepburn, Errol Flynn and Michael Jackson. Adler became known as Silversmith to the Stars. He made a coffee urn for John F. Kennedy and a silver hairbrush for Winston Churchill. Adler’s biggest thrill, which he likened to Paul Revere’s midnight ride, was to design and make lapel pins for the crew of Mercury 7, the first Americans in space. Like Stanley Morris, Allan Adler was a talented designer as well as a craftsman. After the war, despite increasing automation, Adler continued to work by hand. This tradition is continued today by his grandson Danny Parsell.
The medal was presented at the SCTS Annual Meeting in 1978 at Leeds. The delegation from the AATS consisted of
J. Gordon Scannell, Myron W. Wheat and Lyman A. Brewer. They were met at the airport by Sir Donald Ross and Marian Ionescu. Given the value of the Presidential Medal, Brewer and Ionescu hurried into London to deposit it with Barclays Bank for later safe transport to Leeds. The presentation was made to the President of SCTS H.R.S Harley at the meeting on Friday 29th September 1978.
The Badge and Medal in 2018
Both the Presidential Badge and Chain of Office and Presidential Medal remain in use today. The AATS Badge is worn by the President during official duties at the Annual Meeting and of course during the Presidential Address. The design of the badge is the official letterhead of the Association and will of course be familiar to readers of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.
The SCTS medal is worn by the president at the Societies’ annual business meeting and during the biannual presidential address. The medal is currently valued at £13,550 (US $17600). The medal contains a hallmark dated 1988 by a company called Argenta Design who have now ceased trading but were based in London. The hallmark identifies that the gold is 9 carat. We have had the medal independently weighed and the medal is indeed 9 carat. There are two possible explanations for this. First, the original medal may have been lost and the current medal is a replacement made in 1988 by Argenta Design. However, there is no mention of loss of the medal or obtaining a replica in the SCTS Executive minutes of this period. We believe that it is unlikely that such an occurrence would not have been recorded in the minutes. The second and more likely explanation is that the hallmark was added in 1988 after the company Argenta Design valued the medal and that the documentation describing it as made of 14K yellow gold is wrong. A hallmark is not required to be stamped on all gold goods in the United States of America.
The notes prepared by the AATS to in the presentation of the Presidential Medal refer to the ‘deep bond of friendship between the two societies, their early histories and the profound impact that they have had on the development of thoracic surgery’. The British sentiment was similar, and the Executive Committee clearly held their colleagues in the American Association in high regard.
In 2019, a Presidential Badge and Chain of Office and Presidential Medal may seem anachronistic but both the AATS and SCTS have taken great pride in the history and display of these symbols of our mutual admiration and respect. It seems fitting to retell the story of their history, if only to celebrate the deep ties between our two professional organisations.
Article written by Mr Graham Cooper (SCTS President 2016-2018)
The following have all provided valuable help in researching this article:
- Eleni Bide and Sophia Tobin at The Goldsmiths’ Company
- The Royal College of Surgeons of England Archive
- Stephanie Higgs, niece of Stanley G Morris
- Dauvit Alexander, School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University
- Isabelle Ferner, SCTS
- Bill Maloney, AATS