Lives of the fellows

Howard Campbell Aston

b.29 August 1910 d.9 October 1986
MB ChB Birm(1933) MRCP(1939) FRCP(1973)

Howard Aston was born in Birmingham, where his father Bernard Aston was a sales manager. He was educated at the King Edward VI School, Birmingham, going on to Birmingham University where he graduated in medicine in 1933 with distinction in forensic medicine and toxicology. After house appointments at the Midland Nerve Hospital and Queen’s Hospital, he was appointed medical officer in the London County Council Hospital Service in 1936. He was senior resident physician at Lewisham Hospital in 1942, but joined the RAMC as a medical specialist with the rank of major. After demobilization he returned to Lewisham, and was later appointed consultant physician to the Bethnal Green Hospital in 1948, where he spent the rest of his professional life.

Howard was a well read, up to date and very sound general physician, with an open mind always ready to encourage new developments and techniques. At Bethnal Green he was in charge of staff health, of a children’s ward, and of adult wards - being one of the last of a generation of general physicians to have the care of neonates and also of elderly patients. He was in his 50s before the hospital had a paediatricain or geriatrician on the staff.

Being a quiet man, of few words, it was not easy to get to know him. He was not a man who threw his weight about, but his occasional interventions in committee were respected since they were usually put forward to prevent something unfair or unwise.

He married Kathleen Marguerite Mutch, daughter of a headmaster, in 1942 and they had three daughters, all of whom became distinguished either academically or musically. Howard was an accomplished musician on stringed instruments and there was a tradition of family oriented chamber music, as well as orchestral playing. Holidays were often spent at the Dartington music school.

Howard was an observant traveller and also a keen gardener, but the last few years of his working life were marred by a succession of serious organic illnesses: diabetes mellitus with ketosis during gangrenous appendicitis, bronchial asthma with status asthmaticus during a flight when above Heathrow Airport, coronary artery disease and gastrointestinal haemorrhage. He coped manfully, and came back to work after each episode, reluctantly retiring at the age of 63 because of ill health - and then only because of the insistence of his wife and his physician. Fortunately, after retirement his health improved at first, possibly due to less exposure to atmospheric pollution or to less stress.

RH Balme

(Volume VIII, page 12)

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