The Rolex Awards for Enterprise
Sir John Rawlins is a former medical director general (Naval) and Surgeon Vice-Admiral in Britain’s Royal Navy. He has been actively involved in raising standards of safety in undersea diving and in the rescue of the crews of aircraft that have crashed at sea. He currently devotes himself to lecturing and to the chairmanship of various companies involved in high-technology underwater operations.
Following studies at University College, Oxford, and having graduated in medicine and surgery at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, in 1945, he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1947 and served for two-and-a-half years on the aircraft carrier, HMS Triumph.
ln 1951 he rejoined the Royal Navy and was appointed to the Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine where he was responsible for the development of an anti-G suit and a protective helmet for aircrew. As part of his research, he rode a high-speed rocket track in simulations to determine the human limits for catapulting and arresting naval aircraft. He subsequently carried out underwater ejections with explosive aircraft ejection seats while researching aircraft automatic underwater escape systems.
Following appointment as consultant in aviation medicine to the Royal Navy, he joined the United States Naval Medical Research Institute as an exchange medical officer and worked on problems of thermal stress in divers.
In 1973, he was appointed director of health and research (Navy) with the rank of Surgeon Commodore, and, in 1975, he was promoted to Surgeon Rear Admiral and appointed dean of naval medicine and Medical-Officer-in-Charge, at the Institute of Naval Medicine. ln 1975, he became honorary physician to Queen Elizabeth II.
Shortly before his retirement from the navy in 1980, he received a knighthood. He was also awarded the Order of the British Empire (1961) and became the Royal Navy's “Man of the Year” (1964) for his work on aviation safety. He has received the Eroll-Eldridge Prize for Naval medical officers and the Arnold D. Tuttle Memorial Award of the Aerospace Medical Association for “outstanding research achievements in aviation medicine”. He was a founding member of the European Underseas Biomedical Society.
Sir John Rawlins died in 2011.
Published in 1990