Lives of the fellows

Robert Ralph de Mowbray

b.29 July 1920 d.25 November 1996
BA BM BCh Oxon(1944) MA(1946) MRCP(1949) DM(1953) FRCP(1971)

Robert de Mowbray was a talented endocrinologist and diabetes specialist. Medicine was in his blood; his father was a general practitioner and two of his three brothers became doctors. Educated at Winchester and Worcester College, Oxford, he completed house jobs in Oxford and had the unusual experience of registrar posts in five London teaching hospitals. After two years as senior RMO at the Royal Free Hospital he joined the Army as a physician. He served most of his time at Catterick where he conceived an abiding affection for the Yorkshire Dales.

Demobilized in 1949, he became the first registrar in endocrinology at Guy’s Hospital, then an unfashionable specialty. His particular interest was delayed puberty about which he wrote his DM thesis. After further training at St Mary’s, Middlesex and St Bartholomew’s he was appointed consultant at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Stratford, and other hospitals in the Thames group. Later he also joined the staff of the Italian Hospital, Queen Square. He took immense pains over his NHS patients and from his rooms in Devonshire Place ran a large private practice which grew larger after Raymond Greene [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.228] asked him to take on his patients.

In his early years he wrote a chapter on sex and reproduction for Moran Campbell’s book on clinical physiology and many papers on endocrinological subjects. He served as secretary to the section of endocrinology at the Royal Society of Medicine, but he was not really a researcher or committee man. He was an individualist, every inch a clinician.

His hobbies were music, cricket and, although he disliked flying, travel. He had a deep love and understanding of music and musicians. He kept a picture of Vaughan Williams on his grand piano. In 1941, while still a student, he wrote a song which was broadcast several times. He would travel long distances to hear a performer he admired and was especially devoted to the conductor Norman del Mar. He loved opera and never missed an opportunity to take his friends to Glyndebourne. With Walter Merivale [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.336] as librettist he wrote music for an Arthurian opera, though it was never performed. In his youth he was an athlete. He was no great cricket player but he knew a lot about the game and was a member of the MCC. On the day of a test match he would get to Lord’s as soon as the ground was open to reserve a seat behind the bowler’s arm and then go off to breakfast. He was a member of the Cricketer’s Club and the Saville.

He was a brilliant mimic and his enthusiasm was infectious. For many years he lived at 28 Margaretta Terrace in Chelsea where visitors were always welcome. There was a ‘conference bed’ for friends who came up to town for meetings. Robert always brought them early morning tea.

In 1945 Robert married Joanna Hepher, a nurse he met at the Radcliffe, and they had one son. She died in 1989. After her death he lived above his rooms in Devonshire Place and remarried. His second wife, Violette Hund, supported him devotedly through a long period of decline due to strokes.

R E Irvine

[Brit.med.J.,1997,314,833]

(Volume X, page 105)

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