Lives of the fellows

Dennis Charles Deuchar

b.20 September 1924 d.19 May 1977
MB BS Lond(1948) MRCP(1951) MD(1952) FRCP(1968)

Dennis Deuchar, physician in charge of the cardiac department at Guy’s Hospital, died at the early age of 52. During his entire life, from the age of 18, he suffered from repeated episodes of illness but these were never allowed to interfere with his professional work, and he never complained. He underwent several courses of radiotherapy as well as many painful operations, but his enormous courage, and a very close family, enabled him to present an unchanged appearance under conditions which would have been impossible for a lesser man. His wife, Daphne, daughter of Raymond Stanley Knowles, and his two sons were a constant source of strength to him.

Dennis was born in London, the son of Charles William Deuchar and his wife Eva Lily, daughter of Thomas Levett Hart. He was educated at Finchley Catholic Grammar School and, after the family moved to Bexhill-on-sea, at Bexhill Grammar School. He entered Guy’s Hospital Medical School in 1943, where he took many undergraduate prizes before qualifying in 1948. The MRCP followed in 1951, and the MD in 1952. Apart from a year spent at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA, as a Howard Hughes foundation research fellow, he served Guy’s Hospital during the whole of his working life.

After house appointments at Guy’s, he became research student in congenital heart disease, and as early as 1949 became involved in developing the cardiac catheterization laboratory at the hospital, together with HE Holling and GA Zak. Much of the apparatus had to be built personally, and it was at this time that he acquired his lifelong interest in bioengineering. He became a founder member of the Biological Engineering Society in 1961, and also served as a council member for three years. It was at the Johns Hopkins Hospital that he first developed his interest in ballistocardiography. He contributed regularly to the literature on this subject, and became president of the Ballistocardiographic Society in 1967. He was appointed assistant physician to the cardiac department at Guy’s in 1958, and succeeded Charles Baker and Ralph Kauntze as physician-in-charge in 1971. Although he was supreme as an expert on the haemodynamic aspects of cardiovascular disease, his wide experience of medicine, together with his judgment and humanity, made him a superb clinician.

Dennis Deuchar was a great supporter, and later editor, of Guy's Hospital Reports, to which he made many contributions. He also served the British Heart Journal as a member of the editorial committee, and was associate editor at the time of his death. His book Clinical Phonocardiography was published in 1964 and has become a standard work.

He set high standards, and his capacity for clear, logical thought his scrupulous weighing of clinical signs and investigations, and his ability to see straight to the crux of a problem made his opinion often sought by his colleagues. It is characteristic that a few days before his death he was planning the expansion of his department.

His interests outside medicine were wide, and he particularly enjoyed music, cinema and theatre, good food and wine and good company. He had a modest, gentle nature and a soft spot for the eccentrics of this world. His sense of humour made him excellent company, his approach to life enlivened any occasion, and he had the ability to make acquaintances feel like friends. He inspired respect and loyalty among all who came into contact with him, and continued working right to the end, in the full knowledge that recovery was impossible.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1977, 1, 1421; Lancet, 1977, 1, 1164]

(Volume VII, page 149)

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