Lives of the fellows

John Alexander Drake

b.4 November 1878 d.29 October 1952
MB BS Lond(1903) DPH Eng(1919) MD Lond(1920) MRCS LRCP(1902) MRCP(1920) FRCP(1926)

John Alexander Drake was born in Clifton, Bristol, the son of Alfred Drake. He entered King’s College, London, at the age of eighteen and thereafter proceeded to King’s College Hospital where he won the Warneford and junior scholarships as well as the Sambrooke exhibition. He took the conjoint diploma in 1902 and was appointed house surgeon to Sir Watson Cheyne, thus being one of the last men whose contact with Lord Lister’s work was direct.

Ill health in the form of asthma then began to influence his life, compelling him to seek country air. From 1905 until 1915 he undertook general practice in Tenby, Pembrokeshire. Whilst there he was consulting physician to the Pembroke and District Hospital, taking particular interest in diseases of the skin. As he was unable to serve in any of the Forces he obtained a post as civilian director of a medical division in the 4th London General Hospital, which was in fact King’s with hutted extensions into Ruskin Park. Thus he was able to renew his acquaintance with the skin department, then under the control of Professor Arthur Whitfield.

This association led to his appointment as assistant physician to that department in 1920. At the same time he became director of the V.D. department in succession to Dr d’ Este Emery. In 1927 he was promoted to full physician and took over the skin department when Professor Whitfield retired. He remained at King’s for a further ten years, eventually retiring in 1937, being then made consulting physician and emeritus lecturer. At the same time he abandoned his appointment as consultant to the London County Council and lecturer at the London School of Dermatology.

He was not himself a prolific writer, but he acted as assistant editor to the British Journal of Dermatology and Syphilology for many years. Of his own papers perhaps that on the eczema-asthma-prurigo complex (Brit. J. Derm., 1928, 40, 407-14) was best known, this having been read at the annual meeting of the British Association of Dermatology in Oxford in 1928. Others of note concerned aleukaemic leukaemia with multiple skin tumours (ibid., 1925, 37, 354-64 and urticaria evoked by emotion (ibid., 1931, 43, 184-5).

Among his appointments special mention must be made of the fact that he was one of the very few dermatologists who had served as examiner in medicine to the Conjoint Board.

His interest in his hospital was great and he served the medical school faithfully as vice-dean and dean for seventeen years. His annual re-election demonstrated his ability as well as the faith placed in him both by his colleagues and the students, in whom he took a fatherly interest. During his period of office he was responsible for the completion of one block of new buildings of the Medical School. In character he was quiet, unassuming and even retiring. His kindly outlook was never warped by his ill health, the severity of which often caused his absence from hospital for many weeks at a time; indeed he returned to Tenby for some years before finally settling down in Chelsea.

He married in 1908 Lorna, daughter of Mr C. J. Stewart. There were no children.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.J.Derm., 1953, 65, 34-5; Brit.med.J., 1952, 2, 1048; Lancet, 1952, 2, 941; Times, 31 Oct. 1952.]

(Volume V, page 110)

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