Obituaries

William Robert BurkittOliver Ormrod CowpeAelwyn GriffithsEnid Houghton (née Cyriax)George Lewis MackayJohn Stuart MartinRichard Garwood RobinsonRichard Selwyn Francis SchillingJohn Kenneth ThomsonFrederick John Dickinson (“Bill”) WebsterJean Margaret Werner

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7121.1545 (Published 06 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1545

William Robert Burkitt


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Former medical officer east Africa and ophthalmic practitioner Hereford Eye Hospital (b Nairobi 1916, where his father was a doctor; q Cambridge/St Bartholomew's 1941; DO; OBE), d 23 September 1997. Having seen active service in north Africa with the Royal Army Medical Corps, he returned to east Africa after the war as medical officer with the ground nuts scheme in Tanganyika. When this collapsed he worked in several other posts in the Colonial Medical Service and elsewhere before being approached by the Kenya Society for the Blind to see whether he would set up a badly needed mobile eye unit. After some training and experience he set out on his own with a small staff whom he had chosen and trained himself. They travelled to remote outposts and operated on all the cataract cases that could be mustered. It soon became a popular and valuable service, and, although William had at first financed it himself, it was later taken over by the Commonwealth Society for the Blind. For this work he was awarded the OBE, but unfortunately with independence the scheme collapsed and William and his wife returned to Britain. A deeply committed Christian and a widely read man, he was a knowledgeable bird watcher and spent much of his latter leisure years in tramping the Welsh border hills. His wife died nine months before him. [Robin Burkitt]

Oliver Ormrod Cowpe

Former consultant orthopedic surgeon Wythenshawe District General Hospital (b 1919; q Manchester 1943; FRCS), died of cancer of the prostate on 20 March 1997. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Europe and the Sudan, and then returned to orthopedics at Salford. As a consultant he built up the orthopedic services at Altrincham and later at Wythenshawe, having a keen interest in the training and supervision of the department. Golf, gardening, and climbing were his main outside interests, and he was among the first to see the need for expert medical care in the mountain rescue service. He leaves a wife, Dorothy; a son (a professor of oral surgery); and a daughter. [J D Evans]

Aelwyn Griffiths


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General practitioner Cardiff 1942–82 (b Aberbargoed 1913; q Cardiff 1939; DPH) died of acute leukaemia on 13 June 1997. He served as a surgeon lieutenant in the Royal Navy and while in hospital escaped certain death when his ship was sunk off South Africa. He was invalided out of the navy and was clear about his desire to become a general practitioner; towards the end of his career he remarked that, whereas he had done mainly pediatrics and domiciliary obstetrics, most of his patients were now pensioners. He was for many years secretary of the local BMA division, a committee member of the Cardiff Medical Society, and enjoyed reading, travel, and golf. Predeceased by his wife, Nesta, he leaves two daughters and three granddaughters. [Gwilym Bowen]

Enid Houghton (née Cyriax)

Former general practitioner Edgbaston (b London 1913, to two doctors; q Birmingham 1936), d 20 August 1997. Her first post was in ophthalmology, where one weekend she ran out of leeches, then still the standard treatment for acute glaucoma. In 1949 she became the first woman to be admitted to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, and remained a staunch supporter all her life, as well as promoting the activities of the Soroptomists International and several medical associations. She leaves a husband, “Timothy,” and three children (all doctors). [Helga, Ivan, and Guy Houghton]

George Lewis Mackay

General practitioner Mayfair and Pimlico 1964–88 (b Edinburgh 1945 into a medical family; q Edinburgh (distinction in anatomy, Annandale Gold Medal for clinical surgery); MRCP, MRCGP), d 9 September 1997. He did his national service in Palestine and Egypt in the Royal Army Medical Corps as deputy assistant director of medical services and then in a field ambulance, being mentioned in dispatches. He then held a variety of junior hospital posts in London. From an early age his Christian faith had meant everything, finding expression in a commitment to moral rearmament, so that he left hospital medicine to serve as a travelling physician to those involved in its campaigns in Africa and subsequently elsewhere. He then returned to a single handed general practice in London, where he gave equal care to the fashionable élite and to the homeless and addicts. An honorary secretary of the west London faculty of the Royal College of General Practitioners, he was also chairman of the St Marylebone Division of the BMA and a representative, receiving the BMA commendation medal in 1977. He retired to the edge of the Highlands, where he improved his golf, pursued his love of music, and played an active part as an elder in Killearn Kirk. He leaves a wife, Anne, and a son and a daughter. [John Lester]

John Stuart Martin


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Former senior consultant otolaryngologist Hull Royal Infirmary (b County Meath 1917; q Belfast 1939; FRCS, DLO; MC), d 3 September 1997. During the war he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in north Africa and Europe, commanding field ambulances and serving as assistant director of medical services with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In 1943 he was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery, when having, as quoted in the citation, “immediately proceeded to the place which was being most heavily shelled … quite undaunted by this heavy shellfire he attended to the wounded men without regard for his personal safety. By his brave action he undoubtedly saved lives and the example had a steadying influence on all around him.” As a consultant he covered the whole of otolaryngology, being a particularly precise and gentle operator in drilling procedures in the temporal bone. He was also a craftsman of rare ability with wood, and after retirement not only designed and made delightful and individual long case clocks for his wife and each of his three daughters, but also panelled the hall and three rooms of his house. He leaves his wife, Violet (also a doctor), and family. [Douglas Ranger]

Richard Garwood Robinson

Former editor New Zealand Medical Journal and professor of neurosurgery Otago (b Dartford 1915; q Guy's 1939; ChM, FRACS; GM, CBE), died of metastatic cancer of the prostate on 27 September 1997. He served in Bomber Command during the war, being awarded the George Medal for bravery in 1941, and then trained in neurosurgery at Sheffield, being appointed to Dunedin in 1951. In 1959 he was Hunterian professor at the Royal College of Surgeons on hydatid disease affecting the nervous system, and gave a guest lecture at the National Hospital, Queen Square, on temporal lobe agenesis. Subsequently he pioneered stereotactic surgery for Parkinson's disease in New Zealand. He was medicopolitically active and was awarded the fellowship of the New Zealand Medical Association in 1982. Appointed editor of the New Zealand Medical Journal in 1967, he did not retire until June of this year and was a prominent founder member of the Vancouver group of medical journal editors, his brevity and commonsense being welcome counterpoints to the lengthy debates among some of its American members. He promoted the journal from monthly to fortnightly publication, and its style and prowess were very much modelled by him. His home in Dunedin, with its piles of compact discs, books, and English magazines and pottery made by his wife, Flo, could have equally been in Chelsea or Hampstead (and, rarely, though he spoke warmly of his adopted country, he would denounce the postwar English medical establishment for its uncaring attitude towards junior doctors, which had made them reluctant emigrants), and he also enjoyed walking in the magnificent countryside locally. Predeceased by his wife, he leaves two daughters and five grandchildren. [James Clayton, Stephen Lock]

Richard Selwyn Francis Schilling


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Director of Rockefeller Unit (later Institute) of Occupational Health London 1956–76 (b Kessingland, Suffolk, 1911; q St Thomas's 1934 MD, FRCP; CBE), d 30 September 1997. He began his medical career in his father's general practice, planning to stay in practice and taking a obstetric house job to avoid repeating the experience of domiciliary midwifery. With no prospect of settled employment he took an industrial medical officer's post to get married. This temporary assignment opened the door to a career in industrial medicine, and in 1939 he became a medical inspector of factories. As a Territorial he was called up at the outbreak of war, went to France with a field ambulance, and returned via Dunkirk. He was recalled to his civilian post, becoming secretary to the Medical Research Council's Industrial Health Research Board. The mid-1940s were the heyday of occupational health research, with the creations of university departments, and this whetted his appetite for an academic career. In 1947 he joined the department at Manchester, where respiratory disease in cotton workers presented a challenging field for research. A field study indicated a high prevalence of byssinosis and an overlooked health risk, and led to a series of international studies of textile workers. In 1956 he became director of the Rockefeller Unit of Occupational Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Endowed by the Trades Union Congress, in 1970 this became an institute, with a major commitment to teaching and the first to offer courses for master's degrees. When he retired from the school his institute had trained over 400 students, many of them from developing countries. He and his colleagues produced Occupational Health Practices, which became a standard textbook for health professionals. He had many papers published in the British Journal of Industrial Medicine, ranging from the first to the 50th volume, and his last book, A Challenging Life, is to appear shortly. He leaves a wife, Heather; a son (also in occupational health) and two daughters; six grandchildren (two doctors); and one great grandson. [Richard Schilling]

John Kenneth Thomson

Former general practitioner Abergele (b Wigan 1912; q Edinburgh 1936; MBE (Mil)), d 18 May 1997. He held house jobs in Salford and served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. With his two partners he was instrumental in forming the first group practice in Wales. A keen yachtsman, he was a former commodore of the Rhyl Yacht Club. He leaves a wife, Betty; a son and two daughters; and seven grandchildren. [T R Jones, H C Percy-Hughes]

Frederick John Dickinson (“Bill”) Webster

Former general practitioner Bridlington (b 1913; q Leeds 1937; MRCGP), died after a stroke on 23 April 1997. After house jobs at Leeds, where he captained the medical school rugby team, he spent the remainder of his career in Bridlington. As a captain in the Green Howards he was mentioned in dispatches in France, and was subsequently captured in north Africa. He arranged for the construction of the first purpose built surgery in Bridlington, and particularly enjoyed his contact with the lifeboatmen and fishermen of Flamborough. After retirement he remained a regular member of the congregation at the priory and was an active member of the Green Howards Association. He leaves a wife, Mary (a retired obstetrician); a son (a psychiatrist); and two daughters (one a general practitioner). [John C T Webster]

Jean Margaret Werner

Consultant psychiatrist in alcoholism Cambridge 1974–88 and Bradford 1988–96 (b Yorkshire 1936; q Edinburgh 1960; FRCPsych), died of a rare complication of Crohn's disease on 24 July 1997. She began her psychiatric training in Australia, but it was her experience as a senior registrar in the alcohol unit at Edinburgh that she brought to Cambridge as its first consultant in alcoholism. She inherited a previously planned regional unit, which she changed radically into a widely accessible, area based “drinking problem clinic.” Beds were reduced, while the setting became a day hospital and finally moved to a city centre site. She continued this pioneering work in Yorkshire for both alcohol and drug abuse, developing a strong community service helping the voluntary sector, the NHS, and social services to work together. She was a member of local, regional, and national committees and had a crucial role in planning the structure of alcohol services in England and Wales. For most of her professional life she suffered numerous periods in hospital, and sometimes surgical intervention, which never interfered with her enthusiasm for life and work. Her marriage ended in 1971, but she established a real family home for her three daughters in Cambridge. She leaves them and two grandchildren. [Graham Petrie]

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