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Exercising his passion

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7255.198 (Published 22 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:198

Geoff Watts meets Jerry Morris, pioneer of social medicine, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday

Jerry Morris is one of those lucky few in whom the ageing process starts normally, then admits defeat and gives up. He moves more slowly than he did 10 or 15 years ago. But even this has less to do with passing time than with a fracture in France followed by a botched repair job.

At age 90 Professor Jeremy Noah Morris is pretty much the same as ever: garrulous, forthright, charming, opinionated, determined, occasionally indiscreet. In conversation his life emerges as a series of anecdotes—spiced with the odd salty adjective that he begs you not to quote.

When a man establishes his reputation in a field such as social medicine, you feel compelled to look for motives. And his first interest, juvenile heart disease, does seem to offer hints of something beyond personal ambition or academic curiosity.

“As a junior clerk at University College Hospital in 1931, my first patient was a boy of 8 with an enormous heart with aortic and mitral disease from rheumatic fever. I remember the house physician saying he'd only got a few months. It took me days to get over that.

I adopted juvenile rheumatism. The wards were full …

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