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Leslie Morton

Medical librarian and bibliographer London (b 20 July 1907), d 17 February 2004.

To all those who knew him, Leslie Morton was a remarkable man. Disarmingly modest, he was an outstanding medical librarian, bibliographer, and medical historian.

Born in London, he was educated at Haverstock High School in Hampstead. He did not attend university but served an apprenticeship in the medical science library at University College London and became certified as a librarian by the Library Association, becoming an associate in 1932 and a fellow in 1964.

His first professional appointment as librarian was at the Royal Society of Medicine, followed by librarian at St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, the British Council medical department, the BMJ information office, and then the National Institute for Medical Research at Mill Hill from 1959 to 1972.

After retiring in 1972 he became library adviser to the British Postgraduate Medical Federation, in which capacity he made an enormous contribution to the development of medical libraries in postgraduate centres in district general hospitals.

Early in his career he developed an abiding interest in the history of medicine, and his study and research led to the updating of the American Fielding Garrison’s History of Medicine and to the publication in 1943 of A Medical Bibliography: An Annotated Checklist of Texts Illustrating the History of Medicine (Garrison and Morton), which became the definitive work on this subject.

Although this bibliography is Morton’s best known work, it represents only a fraction of his literary output, which includes How to Use a Medical Library published in 1932 with six further editions, the most recent in 1992, and a Compilation of World Medical Periodicals. His last major work, A Chronology of Medicine and Related Sciences, appeared in 1997, and in 2003 he completed work on a comprehensive list of the most significant British medical books through history, in preparation for an exhibition at the Royal Society of Medicine.

He visited the United States several times and established warm relations with American colleagues, giving invited lectures and attending meetings of the Medical Librarians’ Association.

Distinguished awards came to him from both sides of the Atlantic, including the highest medical library honours in both countries—the Noyes award of the United States Medical Library Association and the Cyril Barnard Memorial prize of the British Library Association’s medical section—one of only two people to have received both awards.

In 1988 when the Library Association celebrated its charter centenary, Leslie Morton was one of only two medical librarians who were presented with a Royal Charter Centenary medal by the Princess Royal.

He was a man of great personal charm, and a stickler for accuracy and detail, and he always ensured that credit was given to the right person. He was generous with his time for anyone who sought his advice, which was always informative and helpful.

He suffered a stroke on 16 February 2004 and died the following day in his 97th year. Predeceased by his wife, Bertha (née Shrosbee), to whom he was married for more than 60 years, he is survived by a son and a daughter. [John Lister]