William Liley

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Sir William Liley
Born Albert William Liley
(1929-03-12)12 March 1929
Auckland, New Zealand
Died 15 June 1983(1983-06-15) (aged 54)
Auckland, New Zealand
Cause of death Suicide
Occupation Perinatal physiologist

Sir Albert William Liley KCMG (12 March 1929 – 15 June 1983) was a New Zealand medical practitioner, renowned for developing techniques to improve the health of foetuses in utero.

Education and career[edit]

Liley graduated from Otago Medical School at the University of Otago in Dunedin, in 1954. After a period at Australian National University in Canberra, he returned to Auckland where he worked for the rest of his life except for a brief period at Columbia University. While in Auckland he held a number of posts, including at Auckland University, National Women's Hospital and the Medical Research Council of New Zealand (now the Health Research Council of New Zealand).

In 1963, after three unsuccessful attempts, Liley successfully carried out the first ever successful intrauterine blood transfusion. The fetus had Rh disease/hemolytic disease and had been expected to die before birth. The highly publicised procedure was a milestone in not only medical treatment but also public perception. Initially the procedure had a success rate of only about 40%, but this rose over time.

Liley was awarded fellowships with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and was appointed to the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, although he was an atheist. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In the 1973 Queen's Birthday Honours Liley was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George for distinguished service to medicine.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Liley met his future wife Helen Margaret Irwin Hunt (known as Margaret) as a classmate in medical school; they married in 1953. They had five biological children and an adopted child with Down syndrome.[2]

The family maintained an 200 acres (81 ha) block outside Benneydale in the King Country where Liley exercised a passion for silviculture.


Liley was one of the founders of the New Zealand anti-abortion group, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (now Voice for Life), in 1971 and served as that organisation's first president. In 1977, Robert Sassone edited a series of interviews with Liley and Jérôme Lejeune, entitled The Tiniest Humans.[3]


Liley committed suicide in 1983.

Liley Medal[edit]

Since 2004 the Health Research Council of New Zealand has annually awarded the Liley Medal in recognition of an outstanding contribution to medical research.[4]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "No. 45985". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 22 May 1973. p. 6507. 
  2. ^ "The Embryo Project Encyclopedia". embryo.asu.edu. 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2012. obstetrician and pediatrician 
  3. ^ Robert Sassone (ed): The Tiniest Humans: Interviews with Sir William Alfred Liley and Professor Jérôme Lejeune: Stafford, Virginia 1977, American Life League. An online excerpt was released on 5 October 2005.
  4. ^ "Medals | Health Research Council". hrc.govt.nz. 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012. The Liley medal recognises an individual whose recent research has made an outstanding contribution to the health and medical sciences. The medal is named after Sir William (Bill) Liley KCMG, BMedSc, MB, ChB, PhD (ANU), Hon. DSc (VUW), Dip Obs, FRSNZ, FRCOG, Hon. FACOG, to recognise his lifetime contributions to health and medical sciences 
  5. ^ "Spotlight on top New Zealand researchers" (Press release). Royal Society of New Zealand. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  6. ^ "Royal Society of New Zealand recognises achievements of researchers". Royal Society of New Zealand. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  7. ^ "Liley Medal holds the key to fertility". scoop.co.nz. 2009. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "Super scientists share the Liley Medal honours". scoop.co.nz. 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  9. ^ "Childhood asthma researcher wins Liley Medal". scoop.co.nz. 2007. Retrieved 17 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Human brain research wins Liley Medal". scoop.co.nz. 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2012.