Henry Jeffray Weston

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 07 July 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3596
  1. Richard H R White

    Henry Jeffray Weston—known by family, friends, and colleagues as “Jeff”—was born on 9 September 1926 in New Plymouth, New Zealand, where his father was a newspaper proprietor. He studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School, completing his final clinical year at Wellington Hospital, and graduating MB ChB in 1950. Following junior appointments at Wellington Hospital, he came to London in 1955, where he held house physician posts at the Hammersmith and Brompton Hospitals—traditional training grounds for Commonwealth postgraduates—leading to the MRCP (London), which was essential at that time for paediatric trainees.

    He had already set his sights on a career in paediatrics, and in 1956 obtained posts as house physician, then registrar, in the cardiorespiratory unit at Great Ormond Street, where I first met him. After two more years as resident assistant physician (RAP), he returned to New Zealand, and was appointed consultant paediatrician to Wellington Hospital in 1965. He was elected fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), and FRCP (London) in 1974.

    In 1975 Jeff was appointed foundation professor of paediatrics and child health at Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago, a post he held until retiring in 1992 as emeritus professor. During his tenure, in addition to routine academic commitments, he worked tirelessly to create a new paediatric department to replace the 1912 King Edward VII building, which had long been condemned as unsafe. In addition to improved facilities he demanded overnight parents’ accommodation, and this brought him into conflict with his adult counterparts as well as the health minister, who perceived paediatrics as merely the treatment of sick children, and not about family welfare. However, his dogged determination ultimately prevailed, and the new unit was opened in 1988.

    Despite his onerous work schedule he served for six years as chairman of the Specialist Advisory Committee in Paediatrics of the RACP, and was president of the New Zealand Paediatric Society in 1978. He also continued to serve part time in the Royal New Zealand Medical Corps, rising to the rank of colonel and becoming honorary ADC to HE the Governor General, Brigadier Sir Bernard Fergusson, in 1969. He represented his country at a WHO conference in Manila in 1978, and led the official paediatric delegation to the People’s Republic of China in 1981.

    Jeff was essentially a hands-on clinician, a factor which contributed to his immense popularity with colleagues. As RAP at Great Ormond Street he had responsibility for the 10-bed infant gastroenteritis unit, under the late Dr Bernard Schlesinger, and he was often to be seen “rescuing” a hapless house physician struggling to insert a needle into a dehydrated baby’s scalp vein—but without ever a hint of humiliation. He taught by example, demanding the highest standards of himself, and had similar expectations of his juniors. He was also a disciplinarian, for whom unpunctuality was anathema. He was deeply concerned by the prevalence of child abuse and neglect, and the willingness of society to turn a blind eye to it. He flagged up his anger as a registrar by refusing to sign a death certificate in a child whose death he could not explain—an act vindicated by a necropsy which revealed fractured ribs and head injuries. He was later invited to serve on the national committee on prevention.

    Jeff was above all a family man. He and his wife, Ann, an anaesthetist, gave hospitality in their home without ostentation, and with heartfelt welcome. They were devastated by the tragic loss of two of their daughters in 1994: the first following a prolonged bout of depression and the second, a strong swimmer, from a diving accident.

    In retirement, true to his nature, Jeff continued to teach medical students part time, and was the New Zealand adviser in paediatrics to the Medical Protection Society. He continued gardening and playing golf, for which he had earned a University Blue in 1949. He took up watercolour painting, as well as postgraduate study of geology, proudly obtaining a BSc in 1995. He bore the unrelenting pain of his final illness with fortitude, supported by his family and cared for with devotion by Ann, whom he leaves, together with their surviving son and daughter and seven grandchildren.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3596


    • Former professor of paediatrics and child health Wellington School of Medicine, University of Otago, New Zealand (b 1926; q Otago 1950; FRACP, FRCP, BSc), died from cancer of the prostate on 12 February 2010.

    View Abstract

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription