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George Godber

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 18 February 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b710
  1. Caroline Richmond

    Probably the best ever chief medical officer

    George Godber was chief medical officer from 1950 to 1973. He was, said Sir Douglas Black (obituary BMJ 2002;325:661), “a medical lay saint, three terms that are normally incompatible”; Stephen Lock, a former BMJ editor, said, “He managed to be a saint without being a bore.”

    Sir George was brought up in Bedford, the son of a market gardener. From Bedford School he went to New College Oxford, where he was a rowing Blue. His tutor was the historian H A L Fisher, who also tutored Dick Crossman, who as an MP became Sir George’s Secretary of State for Health. Sir George qualified in 1933 from the London Hospital, where he encountered patients with serious diseases who were too poor to pay for treatment and too proud to ask for charity. He earned the diploma in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1936. He spent two years in public health in Surrey before joining the then Department of Health. He was in charge of the North Midland region, which had no full time paediatrician or pathologist, when the Beveridge report was published. A former chief medical officer, Sir Wilson Jameson, picked him to be his successor but …

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