Intended for healthcare professionals


P B S Fowler

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 19 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6748
  1. Richard Savage

P B S (“Bruce”) Fowler was a medical polymath. One of the last truly general physicians of English medicine, he balanced original research with teaching while the individual patient remained paramount in his work.

Born to an American mother and a successful English businessman, he returned to England at the age of 3 and was looked after by his father’s chauffeur, who fed him raw suet and taught him to smoke Wills’s Woodbines. He was sent to boarding preparatory school at the age of 6. A bad stammer suggested that he was stupid as, when asked to buy a stamp from the local post office, he would return with one of the wrong value because he was unable to speak properly. He then boarded at Harrow School, where they noticed that when talking about his hobby of bee keeping his stammer disappeared. He attended a stammering school, where he fell in love with a woman who also stammered, and learnt to say “I love you.” It was unlikely that his life would conform to a stereotype.

Bruce excelled at all sports, especially swimming, rugby, and cricket; his parents led him to believe that sport was more important than academic achievement. He formed strong relationships, including with his housemaster, who wrote in his last school report before going up to Balliol College Oxford: “He has a great reserve of faith, of kindliness, of grit, and of good fellowship, Oxford’s gain will definitely be Harrow’s loss.”

He decided to he wanted to become a doctor at the age of 8, when his mother was taken seriously ill and the doctor was called. He arrived at the house, went upstairs, examined his mother and then came down saying, “She will be fine now,” to great rejoicing.

Bruce completed his clinical training at St …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription