Lives of the fellows

John Lawrence Howland Easton

b.22 September 1903 d.10 April 1994
MRCS LRCP(1928) MA MB Cantab(1930) MRCP(1930) MD(1934) FRCP(1957)

Jack Easton was a fine physician and a keen observer of his fellow human beings. He richly deserved the appellation of Ecclesiasticus: ‘Honour a physician according to thy need of him with the honours due to him.’

He was born in London, where his father, Frank Edward Easton, was in practice as a physician and surgeon, and educated at St Christopher’s, Eastbourne, Rugby School, and Pembroke College, Cambridge. His clinical work was undertaken at King’s College Hospital, London. Following his father and grandfather, he entered general practice. In 1933 he married Caterina Pietra Giles, daughter of the master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and herself a medical practitioner. They had one daughter, Charlotte.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Easton joined the RAMC. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in charge of a medical division and was mentioned in despatches in 1944. Back in civilian life he was appointed the first consultant physician to the Bedford Group of Hospitals in 1949 and the next 16 years were the hardest, but finest, of his long career. Previously Bedford General Hospital had been staffed by general practitioners, a few of whom held higher surgical degrees, and Jack’s sudden intrusion was resented by various members of the staff and also by practitioners in the area. Moreover, the north and south wings were entirely independent - and the two matrons were not on speaking terms. In addition to these two main wings, Jack - later known as ‘Uncle Jack’ - had responsibility for four outlying convalescent homes, which he visited at least once a week. He was also responsible for all domiciliary work and acute hospital admissions. He carried out all these duties solely with the help of hospital juniors until a second consultant physician was appointed in 1952. Having entertained the chosen candidate at his home, Jack parted from him with the remark "please do come soon". This cri de coeur was a measure of his evident fatigue and also of his steadfast efforts to put the Bedford group of hospitals firmly on the map, which he did. It has remained there ever since.

Jack Easton was a gentle, kind and generous physician and, despite his work load, he devoted much time to those with cerebral palsy and to the formation of the Spastics Society in Bedford.

D S Lewes

[Brit.med.J., 1994,309,662]

(Volume X, page 124)

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