Heartfelt tributes to pioneering Exeter engineer who gave millions new hips

Clive Lee Exeter Hip
Professor Clive Lee

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a pioneering engineer who co-created an implant which revolutionised hip replacements for millions of people across the world.

Professor Clive Lee was one of the two masterminds behind the Exeter Hip, which transformed the medical world and transformed lives.

The Exeter Hip is a replacement joint - its invention changed orthopedic surgery and a form of the joint is still being used today.

Professor Lee died on Tuesday 2 November following a long illness, at the age of 82.

Clive Lee

Professor Lee created the hip alongside Professor Robin Ling, of the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital, Exeter, who died in 2017. Their ground-breaking design overcame a problem of previous hip implants, which often required further surgery after they became loose.

First fitted in 1970, the simple yet effective design has been fitted globally in over two million patients, with one million happening in the past 10 years alone.

In 2018, Universities UK listed the Exeter Hip among the 100 best breakthrough university innovation.

Earlier this year, 80-year-old Devon pensioner Maureen Brown was revealed to have the longest-lasting Exeter hip replacement, at 50 years.

The Exeter Hip implant

Speaking last year, as the Exeter Hip marked its 50th anniversary, Professor Lee spoke of his pride at his creation’s longevity and success.

He said: “I started out not really knowing what a total hip replacement should look like – that was probably a huge advantage. We designed a very simple structure, and it turned out that going back to basic principles worked out very well indeed.

“We were aiming for a hip replacement that would last perhaps eight or nine years, and that would benefit patients locally. It’s a huge testament to the Exeter team and the university and NHS working together that it’s had such fantastic success. It’s a source of great pride.”

Professor Janice Kay, Provost of the University of Exeter, said: “We’re so sorry to hear of the passing of Clive Lee, a pioneering innovator and a wonderful man, and send sincere condolences to his family and all who knew him.

"We’re extremely proud of his legacy in improving pain-free mobility to millions of people across the world. The partnership between Clive, Robin Ling and many others really shows the incredible feats we can achieve when universities and the NHS work together.”