Lives of the fellows

Charles Arthur Lovatt (Sir) Evans

b.8 July 1884 d.29 August 1968
Kt(1951) BSc Lond External(1910) DSc(1913) MRCS LRCP(1916) Fellow UCL(1918) FRS(1925) FRCP(1929) Fellow RVC(1964)

Charles Arthur Lovatt Evans, son of Charles Evans, piano and violin teacher, was born in Birmingham. He attended Upper High Street Elementary School and Council Secondary School (Waverley Road). Leaving at 14, having decided upon science as a career, he spent a year as assistant to a science master and a further year at Birmingham Municipal Technical School. At 16, he became assistant to Professor Wace Carlier in the Physiology Department at Mason Science College, Edmund St., Birmingham. Matriculating, aged 23, as an external student of London University, he obtained the BSc (External) three years later in 1910. His outstanding performance in the examination led to his appointment as Sharpey Scholar in the Institute of Physiology, University College, London, which he took up in 1911, when he resigned the post of Head Steward in the Physiology Department at Birmingham. At University College he became a pupil and life-long associate of E.H. Starling, the environment being ideal for the development of his gifts as teacher, research worker and administrator. Taking Starling’s advice, he qualified MRCS, LRCP in 1916 while he was Sharpey Scholar. He then joined the RAMC, serving in the Anti-gas Department at Millbank and later as Command Chemical Adviser at Aldershot till demobilization, with the rank of Major in 1918.

Lovatt Evans’s outstanding gifts led to his rapid advancement after the war. After a brief period as Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at Leeds (1918-19) he worked with H.H. Dale (later Sir Henry) on the staff of the National Institute for Medical Research (1919-1922). He was Professor of Physiology at St. Bartholomew’s Medical College (1922-1926) and succeeded Professor A.V. Hill as Jodrell Professor of Physiology at University College (1926-1949). He was away from University College in World War II, working at Porton on gas warfare in the Chemical Defence Establishment (1939-1944). After his retirement from the Jodrell Chair, at the age of 65, he returned to Porton, as Consultant to the Ministry of Supply, actively pursuing his researches for nearly twenty years.

Lovatt Evans will be remembered as the skilful and energetic leader of successive teams of pupils whose pioneer studies provided unique information on the carbohydrate usage of the heart. Their findings confirmed the usage of either lactic acid or glucose as fuel, preferably lactic acid. Heart glycogen was a store which could be called upon if blood lactic acid and glucose declined, or during partial anoxia. Heart glycogen was replenished from blood glucose, not from blood lactic acid. R.A. Gregory, one-time Sharpey Scholar and member of Lovatt Evans’s team (1936-39) tells us ‘We toiled from morning to night on formidable experiments on the metabolism of the isolated perfused dog’s heart. And, always among us, every hour he could snatch from his other duties, was the "Prof." The door from the office would open, and in he would come, taking off his jacket and putting on a short once-white dresser’s coat which he wore as a medical student. "How’s it going" and with collar and tie off, he would make heart-lung preparations, do blood sugar and lactic acid estimations, and tell us fascinating tales of the great physiologists of the past as he did so. His knowledge of the personalities of physiology was encyclopaedic: he seemed to know everything and everybody. For him, a topic under discussion did not originate, as it did for us, with some paper of five or six years before; he could place it against the background of history, recalling some obscure finding of Magendie, Heidenhain or Claude Bernard to lend force to his argument. Then, quite often at nine or ten at night, when the last sample had been taken, he would say "Come along to the Club," and off we would go to the Savage Club in the car. This latter was a rather stately Armstrong-Siddeley saloon, left to him I believe by Harold Dudley. Before that he had been against motor-cars; but he soon became (after failing his driving test the first time!) an enthusiastic if slightly alarming driver — particularly in the narrow rather crowded streets of Soho. I seem to remember that the car had a pre-selector gear with a loud whine; we seldom seemed to get out of low gear, perhaps because of the vigorous acceleration in times of crisis; but we always arrived safely. Those were tremendous days for a young man like myself. He was always there, guiding, helping and encouraging, providing vital opportunities as if by magic, and showing quite touching personal kindness in a characteristically casual and unobtrusive way which made it difficult to thank him adequately. I cannot end without recalling his brilliance as a lecturer to the ordinary student classes. He gave four lectures a week to the junior class. For each one the long bench in the lecture theatre was loaded with apparatus; and as he spoke, he performed experiments to illustrate his account. I realize now what a fantastic feat this was; there is no one else living today who could do it and few I think in the history of physiology; he is the last in a line of great teachers, whose personal knowledge and experience embraced every aspect of his subject.’

Lovatt Evans’s influence on the teaching of physiology was felt far beyond University College. Not only were many of his pupils professors in other universities and medical schools, but Starling’s Principles of Physiology which he kept up to date for 26 years, in eight editions, was widely read, and he himself was in great demand as an external examiner.

Lovatt Evans was a member of the Council and a Vice-President of the Royal Society (1946-48); a member of the Medical Research Council (1947-50) and Chairman of the Military Personnel Sub-Committee (1948-53). He was a Governor of the Royal Veterinary College (1933-63) and Chairman of the Board of Governors for many years (1949-63). As a mark of their appreciation for his services he was made the first Fellow ever to be appointed by the RVC (1964).

He was Sharpey-Schafer Lecturer (University of Edinburgh, 1939), Louis Abrahams Lecturer (RCP 1946), Stephen Paget Lecturer (Research Defence Society, 1949), first Bayliss-Starling Lecturer (Physiological Society, 1963) and William Dick Lecturer (University of Edinburgh, 1965). His bibliography runs to 99 books and papers spanning an interval of 64 years.

In 1911 Lovatt Evans married Laura Stevenson, daughter of an operatic singer whose home was at Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. The Lovatt Evans’s had two daughters. He died at his home, Hedgemoor Cottage, Winterslow nr. Salisbury, and his ashes, and those of his wife who died in 1964, are buried in the cemetary there.

Henry Barcroft

[Biogr.Mem.Roy.Soc., 1970, 16, 233-52;, 1968, 2, 684-5. 749; Lancet, 1968, 2, 578-9; Ergonomics, 1969, 12, 107-8; Nature, 1968, 220, 1055-6; DNB]

(Volume VI, page 166)

<< Back to List