James Thomas Scott

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 02 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5835
  1. H J Scott

James Thomas Scott (“Tom “) enjoyed a fine reputation as a consultant physician at Charing Cross Hospital. He was a gifted teacher, clinical scientific researcher, and mentor. He left a legacy of clinical excellence and diagnostic acumen to the future leaders of academic and clinical rheumatology.

Tom was born and brought up in Mill Hill in north west London. He was an only child and his father, a civil servant in the postal services, died when he was 11. Tom was awarded a scholarship from the junior to the senior branch at University College School in Hampstead. During the war years he had to cycle to and from the school, where he excelled in all his academic activities. He was particularly gifted at Classics, studying Greek and Latin, but he was guided into a career of medicine because at the time he was advised that it had better career prospects. He trained at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in Paddington. He was active in undergraduate activities: he rowed for the medical school and also took part in theatrical, dramatic, and operatic activities. He completed a house post in medicine at St Mary’s Hospital and a surgical house post in Lincoln. He moved on to Harefield Hospital as a junior registrar in medicine and deferred his national service until he acquired his membership of the Royal College of Physicians.

He was captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in Egypt, the Canal zone, and was made consultant physician to the whole of the East Africa Command, based in Kenya.

On returning to St Mary’s Hospital after his national service he continued his medical career and was awarded a fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Under the guidance of Lawrence Shulman he published a paper on the occurrence of a false positive test for syphilis, later recognised as one type of anticardiolipin antibody, in a series of patients who developed systemic lupus erythematosus. After the two year fellowship he returned to the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Taplow and worked under Professor Bywaters. He later became a lecturer at the Hammersmith Hospital Postgraduate Medical School in London. During this time he worked with Barbara Ansell and Allan St John Dixon.

Along with his colleagues Tom embarked on radiological and tissue studies that established the occlusive nature of arteries in patients who have neuropathies often associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

In 1966 Tom was appointed consultant physician to the Charing Cross Hospital. He initially worked at the old Charing Cross Hospital, next to Trafalgar Square, and later moved to the Fulham Palace Road site (which was associated with the West London Hospital). It was at the back of the West London Hospital that the leading rheumatology institute—named the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology—was located. There, as head of the clinical research division and deputy head of the institute, Tom continued his research. He took an interest in gout. He outlined the importance of renal clearance of uric acid as a factor in hyperuricaemia. He also conducted clinical trials on the effectiveness of allopurinol. He led the use of arthroscopy as a tool for the diagnosis and pathology of synovitis and crystal deposition. During his time his research lead to the publication of 200 papers in peer reviewed journals. In addition he edited the 5th (1978) and 6th (1983) editions of Copeman’s Textbook of the Rheumatic Diseases, the leading British textbook in the subject.

During his time he received many accolades, including being president of the Heberden Society, of the Rheumatology Section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and of the West London Medico-Chirurgical Society.

Tom was a member of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland and had a leading role as honorary secretary and vice president of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council. He was editor of the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. This journal was the official scientific journal for UK rheumatologists and the Heberden Society from 1971 to 1983. Tom was awarded the Heberden round and medal in 1970. He worked for the formation of the British Society of Rheumatology in 1984; this was formed as a result of the amalgamation of the Heberden Society and the British Association of Rheumatology and Rehabilitation.

He was well recognised overseas for his pioneering work and in 1979 was awarded the Jan Breeman Medal in the Netherlands. He also conducted lecture tours in the USA, Canada, and Australasia. He had a visiting professorship at the Mayo Clinic and in Nova Scotia. He was an honorary member of the American and Australasian Rheumatism Associations.

Before the advent of occupational health at the Charing Cross Medical School, Tom was the honorary physician in charge of student health. He enjoyed looking after the medical students and was well known by them for his compassionate, holistic attitude.

Tom was also very proud to be a general physician with an interest in rheumatology. He was a very skilled diagnostician and would often surprise his trainees and registrars with an appropriate and accurate diagnosis on a previously undiagnosed conundrum when reviewing patients on his teaching ward rounds. He was a very good teacher and was a very good mentor to many registrars who have become consultants and leaders in the specialty of rheumatology.

He retired from the NHS in 1991 and moved to Somerset. Sadly he developed a subarachnoid haemorrhage, from which he recovered well, but it prevented him from working professionally again.

Tom was a good family man. He was a great host, raconteur, and storyteller. He enjoyed entertaining friends and family and would often lead musical soirées around the family piano. He loved his golden retrievers, and after retiring he enthused about walking on Haddon Hill on Exmoor most mornings and trying to keep his golden retriever under control. He continued to enjoy and partake in musical activities for as a child he sang in the choir in Mill Hill, at medical school he sang in the operatic productions, and in retirement he sang with the Four Towers choir at Huish Champflower and in the Wellington Choral Society. It was only when his deafness became very bad that he stopped singing. His interest in classics continued throughout his life; he often read Greek and Latin prose, and he enjoyed and developed a Roman coin collection that included the face of every Roman emperor. During his retirement he made new friends in Somerset, he enjoyed gardening, fly fishing. He died after a brief illness. He leaves his wife, Faith; three sons: Humphrey (a surgeon), Matthew, and Richard; and one grandson.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5835


  • Retired rheumatologist Charing Cross Hospital (b 1926; q St Mary’s Hospital 1949; FRCP, MD), died from old age associated with cerebrovascular disease on 28 August 2015.

View Abstract

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription