Lives of the fellows

Samuel Barnet Dimson

b.6 November 1907 d.4 April 1991
MRCS LRCP(1930) MB BS Lond(1931) DTM&H(1934) MD(1935) MRCP(1938) FRCP(1971)

Sam Dimson was born in London, the son of Zachariah Dimson, a minister of religion. From the Davenant Foundation School, Sam Dimson went on to University College Hospital, London University, and on qualifying he held house posts at Sheffield Royal Infirmary and Queen Mary's Hospital, London. From 1934-36 he was clinical assistant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, London, where he acquired his interest in paediatrics. He also became interested in tropical medicine, in which he took a postgraduate course.

With the event of the second world war he enlisted in the RAMC. As a medical specialist he held the rank of major in 1942, saw service in Sierra Leone for six months and spent the next four years in India and Burma. During the last three years of the war he held the rank of lieutenant colonel in command of a medical division and was mentioned in despatches in 1945.

After the war he returned to his paediatric interests and was appointed consultant paediatrician to the Sydenham Children’s Hospital, The London Jewish Hospital, Queen Mary’s Hospital for the East End and East Ham Memorial Hospital.

As a medical student Sam had also attended Jew’s College where he was trained as a rabbi; he decided not to pursue the family tradition and concentrated on medicine. It was probably this background which was responsible for his love of teaching and imparting, rather than displaying, his wide knowledge. There are many who are grateful for his concentrated membership course in paediatrics held during the time of the original MRCP examination.

Sam Dimson published many articles, including classics on pamaquin haemoglobinuria and juvenile pernicious anaemia. He was an able clinician and readily spotted and reported anything unusual. He presented a number of cases at the paediatric section of the Royal Society of Medicine and at the London Jewish Hospital Medical Society, of which he became president. He also devoted much of his time to investigating the common and difficult to treat problems of childhood such as constipation, encopresis, obesity, recurrent abdominal pain and enuresis. He published several papers on these subjects.

Sam was a quiet, somewhat shy, person but could be assertive and forceful, particularly in committee if the welfare of children was in question. He was loved and respected by his patients and their parents, to whose needs he attended with patience and humility. At the London Jewish Hospital he actively encouraged children of all ethnic groups to attend his department and this was a notable feature of that hospital in the years before it had to close.

Much of his non-professional life was spent in outdoor pursuits. He was a keen gardener and loved walking in the hills with his wife, Gladys - herself a notable figure in the political sphere. He also loved to ski but this activity came to an end when he broke his ankle. Where many individuals would have considered the accident to indicate sick-leave, it was typical of Sam to appear in his clinic on crutches, declaring his good fortune in having broken his left ankle and having a car with automatic transmission. He was an enthusiastic philatelist and an above average chess player.

Sam and his wife had one daughter and two grandchildren, one of whom followed him into medicine. His greatest happiness was with his family.

Seymour Mason

[Brit.med.J., 1991,302,1331]

(Volume IX, page 130)

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