F. Griffith “Griff” Pearson was born in 1926 in Toronto, Ontario. He attended the University of Toronto Schools, where he was inspired by his science teacher and became enthusiastic about botany and zoology. He enrolled in medicine in 1944 and graduated five years later from the University of Toronto. Following a junior rotating internship at Toronto General Hospital, Pearson worked for a general-practice surgeon in Port Colbourne, Ontario. He then returned to Toronto to train in surgery under Bill Bigelow, where he spent 1951 to 1952 working as Bigelow’s research fellow studying hypothermia. Following his fellowship, Pearson returned to work as a general practitioner in Wawa, Ontario until 1955, when he came back to surgical training. In 1959-1960, he obtained a travelling fellowship in Europe and Britain. Pearson later put his efforts into thoracic surgery at St Joseph’s Hospital, Sunnybrook, St Michael’s, and the East General Hospital. Pearson is known for many accomplishments including his introduction of the technique of mediastinoscopy in 1963 to North America, pioneering trachea replacement, his work in esophageal surgery, and cofounding the Respiratory Failure Unit.
Toronto's pre-eminence in thoracic surgery began with a succession of distinguished surgeons and the creation, in 1968, of a free-standing division (separate from the cardio-vascular service) helmed by Griff Pearson. In addition to his pioneering work in tracheal and esophageal surgery, Pearson was instrumental in establishing the world's first successful lung transplantation program at the Toronto General Hospital in the 1980s.