Lives of the fellows

Vivian Bartley Green Armytage

b.14 August 1882 d.11 April 1961
MB ChB Bristol(1910) MD Bristol(1912) MRCSLRCP(1906) MRCP(1917) FRCP(1927) FCOG(1929) FRCS(1952) Hon FICS(1958)

Vivian Green-Armytage, who was to become one of the most brilliant and lovable gynaecologists of the first half of the twentieth century, was born at Clifton, where his father, Alfred Green-Arymtage, was a solicitor. His mother was Amy Julia (Bartley) Armytage. From Clifton College he went to the University and Royal Infirmary of Bristol. After one year spent in a local house post, in post-graduate study in Paris, and at the Royal Army Medical College, Millbank, where he was Montefiore surgical medallist, he joined the Indian Medical Service in 1907, and for the next seven years showed he was already imbued with a life-long devotion to duty that overcame every difficulty of climate, frustration and isolation.

Distinguished service in World War I gained him the Croix of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and the Order of the White Eagle of Serbia with Crossed Swords. In 1922 he returned to a further eleven years’ service in India, resuming his work at the Eden Hospital for Women and occupying the chair of midwifery and gynaecology at the University and Medical College in Calcutta. It is impossible to overpraise his successful campaigns against the complacency with which the heavy maternal and infantile mortalities were accepted before his arrival, and against the inertia which had characterised the education of students struggling to understand the language of the usual textbooks in English. A humanist, full of new and unorthodox ideas which were the result of massive experience, he became the champion of the young, to whom he was always helpful and unassuming as long as they showed an eagerness to learn.

Green-Armytage hated indolence, and was delighted when his settling in Harley Street in 1933 led to his appointments as gynaecological and obstetric surgeon to the British Post-Graduate and West London Hospital Medical Schools, honorary gynaecological surgeon to the Italian and Tropical Diseases Hospitals, and obstetricsurge on to the Jewish Maternity Hospital. He did much towards the establishment of the British (later Royal) College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, of which he was a foundation fellow. His hobbies of the classics and the history of medicine in biblical and English literature added an unforgettable pungency and humour to his writings and to his contribution to discussions, while his evident mastery of vaginal surgery, his sincerity and his enthusiasm wore down all his critics who had frowned on appointments given to a retired colonel from the East.

He well deserved his remembrance in his own Anglo-American lectureship at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in the J. Y. Simpson oration, and in the Green-Armytage travelling scholarship. But his brilliance and his own consciousness of it made his more orthodox colleagues suspicious that ‘he was not quite sound’, although those privileged to know him admired him for the charitable work to which he seldom referred, and for his unfailing kindness to many junior colleagues.

In 1927 in Rangoon Cathedral he married Mrs. Mary Vera Moir-Byres née Gibson. They had no children.

Richard R Trail

[, 1961, 1, 1176-7, 1260, 1397-8, 1549; Gynéc. prat., 1962, 13, xi-xxiii (p); J. Obstet. Gynaec. Brit. Comm., 1961, 68, 517-18; Lancet, 1961, 1, 894-5, 1178; Times, 12, 14 Apr. 1961.]

(Volume V, page 163)

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