Lives of the fellows

Arthur Henry Douthwaite

b.13 February 1896 d.24 September 1974
MB BS Lond(1921) MRCP(1922) MD(1924) FRCP(1929)

Arthur Henry Douthwaite was born in Chefoo, China, the son of Dr Arthur William Douthwaite, a medical missionary and a graduate of Sheffield University, and Constance, daughter of Edward Kennaway Groves, a civil engineer. As a boy he was sent to live in Bristol with his uncle, Hey Groves, Professor of Surgery at Bristol University, and he attended Redland Hill Preparatory School and Bristol Grammar School. He was due to start his studies at Bristol University when the outbreak of the 1st World War found him on holiday in Germany and he spent the next four years as a civilian POW in Ruhleben. He put his time in internment to such good use studying the preclinical subjects that he was able to graduate MB BS from Guy’s in 1921, three years after his release. He was awarded a Science Scholarship at Guy’s in 1919, the Beaney Pathology Prize in 1920 and he was Murchison Scholar of the Royal College of Physicians in 1922. He was assistant house surgeon and house physician at Guy’s from 1921-22, when he took the MRCP, and was then medical registrar at Guy’s until 1924, when he became MD (London). Now, however, he contracted a tuberculous pleural effusion, attributed by his physician, Dr Beddard, to overwork resulting from the need to supplement his meagre registrar’s pay by doing night work in a general practice near the Hospital. He was advised to live on the South Coast and spent the next five years as a GP in Worthing, during which time he was the first to introduce the injection treatment for varicose veins into Britain. His small monograph on this subject ran into five editions.

In 1927 he was elected to the Guy’s staff and quickly established a reputation as an outstanding general physician and teacher of clinical medicine. He published a monograph on the Treatment of Chronic Arthritis in 1930 and edited many editions of Hale-White’s Materia Medica, from 1931, and of French’s Textbook of Differential Diagnosis, from 1945. His main interests were in gastroenterology and therapeutics. Throughout his long career he retained an inquiring mind and constantly sought to improve methods of diagnosis and treatment: he was among the first in Britain to take up gastroscopy and liver biopsy, and wrote many papers on clinical trials, notably on hypotensive agents and the newer penicillins. With G.A.M. Lintott he gave the first account of acute gastric erosion due to aspirin. It was largely owing to his efforts that a proposed ban on the manufacture of diamorphine was rescinded.

He held the offices of Senior Censor of the Royal College of Physicians, President of the Medical Society of London, President of the Section of Medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine and President of the British Society of Gastroenterology. He was Chairman of the Medical Sickness Annuity and Life Assurance Society and was for many years a Vice President of the Medical Defence Union. He gave the Croonian Lectures in 1956 on Pitfalls in Medicine. At Guy’s he was for many years Chairman of the Medical Committee and Chairman of the Academic Board of the Medical School.

Tall and strikingly handsome, he had a commanding presence and quickly gained the confidence and trust of his patients. More important and perhaps less common, he was held in high esteem by those best qualified to judge, his junior staff, as shown by the attendance of all his former registrars at a dinner held in his honour when he retired from the active staff of Guy’s in 1961. He continued in consulting practice until 1974. He was an excellent teacher, having a fine command of the English language and speaking with great clarity, without hesitation and without recourse to notes. A connoisseur of good food and wine, and with a well-developed capacity for enjoying life, he was an excellent and generous host, and many colleagues had reason to be grateful for his unfailing kindness and support. In the 1930’s he qualified as a pilot and took great delight in flying with his wife to Le Touquet for the weekend. His outstanding courage and determination were clearly shown too, when, during the Second World War, he correctly diagnosed that his duodenal ulcer had perforated: he simply drove on to the nearest hospital and requested a laparotomy within the hour. He was also fond of horse riding. Later in life he took great pleasure in the garden of his country home in Horsham.

In 1920 he married Gladys Olivia, daughter of John Dannhorn, an artist, and they had three daughters; their only son died in infancy. His domestic life was very happy. He died in Crawley Hospital after a brief illness.

JC Houston

[Brit.med.J., 1974, 4, 50; Lancet, 1974, 2, 848]

(Volume VI, page 154)

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