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John Anthony Spencer

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 21 August 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4551
  1. Andrew Mason

For as long as he was a radiologist, John Spencer was a committed and dedicated teacher who exuded enthusiasm for his specialism. His gift was the ability to transfer that sense to others, many of whom he inspired to achieve their career goals. John’s humour and generosity resonated with many, making him an extremely popular and approachable consultant. Part of his appeal lay in a Yorkshire grit and pragmatism that enabled him to simplify concepts and get them over in a straightforward and amusing way. His joy in friends, food, and conversation were a source of pleasure to many but shielded from view his inner thoughts, which later became such a heavy load.

John Anthony Spencer was born in Kingston upon Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire. His mother’s family had a Dutch market gardening background, and his father worked in the automobile trade. This was a key factor in John’s lifelong fascination with all things petrol powered. From humble beginnings in the Anlaby area of Hull the family moved to the more rural setting of Skidby in the Wolds. From here John attended Beverley Grammar School. Here he had a reputation for entertaining the class with humorous impersonations and as an exceptional student. A skilled footballer, John’s chosen position of central defender was influenced by his boyhood heroes down the road at Boothferry Park. He described his devotion to Hull City Football Club as his longest affiliation with any club or society.

From Beverley, John followed the established path from northern direct grant pupil to Oxbridge scholar, arriving at Gonville and Caius in October 1976. Initially residing in Harvey Court—to which he subsequently donated generously for the restoration of his old room—John made his remaining Cambridge base in Green Street. Here his basso profundo could regularly be heard …

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