Norman Coulshed

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 01 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1165
  1. Chris Evans

    Norman Coulshed laid the foundations for modern open heart surgery—firstly, at the cardiac unit at Sefton General Hospital, and, secondly, from 1982, at the newly named Cardiothoracic Centre at Broadgreen Hospital. A Liverpool graduate, who qualified in 1945, he was a through and through Lancastrian: he was born in Whitworth, lived in Banks, and was educated in Southport at King George V Grammar School, where he was captain of rugby and cricket.

    His career was entirely on Merseyside. He obtained his MRCP in 1952 and MD in 1956; his thesis concerned the anoxia test in the diagnosis of myocardial ischaemia and was the first of many distinguished presentations to the Cardiac Society and the Association of Physicians.

    His clinical skills were based on meticulous history taking and examination; his observations were pithy and to the point, albeit in modern terms, not always politically correct, and recorded in a consistent legible hand.

    He was appointed consultant cardiologist in 1960. Inspired by Dr Charles McKendrick, Norman with his colleague Ellis Epstein set up the first coronary intensive care unit in England at Sefton General Hospital. The duo became national pioneers in left heart catheterisation, phonocardiography, and apex cardiography, which were the forerunners of modern echocardiography. Their paper on apex cardiography in health and disease in the British Heart Journal of 1963 remains a model of its kind, demonstrating their understanding of physiology and pathology of the heart. Norman was a superb teacher, and his lucid writing style is demonstrated in his chapter on the examination of the cardiovascular system in Chamberlain’s Symptoms and Signs in Clinical Medicine.

    His wife, Olive, has been in a nursing home for several years. They lived in Woolton, their house being decorated with his meticulous watercolours and acrylics, especially of the Lake District, where for many years they owned a cottage. They have three sons: a civil servant mandarin in London, a librarian in Manchester, and a cardiologist in Sydney, Australia.

    Until diabetic peripheral neuropathy limited his mobility, Norman enjoyed watching cricket at Old Trafford, and playing golf at Formby with a single figure handicap. He espoused steam railways, which were the subject of precise etchings.

    He will be remembered by all his patients, students, and junior and medical colleagues as a sincere, thorough, caring empathetic physician who delivered expert cardiac care in a sympathetic manner with a keen sense of humour.

    At his funeral, the medical consensus was that Norman had been one of the best, brightest and outstanding physicians of his generation.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1165


    • Former consultant cardiologist Liverpool (b 9 January 1922; q Liverpool 1945; MRCP, MD), d 9 February 2009.

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