Lives of the fellows

John Dudley Everall

b.2 February 1917 d.17 July 1997
MRCS LRCP(1942) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1972)

John Dudley Everall was a great physician, surgeon, researcher and teacher. He was a man with enormous strength of will, appetite for life and a near Bacchanalian capacity for enjoyment.

‘JDE’ sought always to understand disorders of the skin in the context of the whole patient, taking into consideration not only the skin organ itself and the external influences with which it is in contact, but also those potent psychological and metabolic forces which affect it from within. In this holistic approach lay his greatest strength for it enabled him to be a master of cutaneous therapy. Getting the patient better was always his principal aim and to this end he used all means available. He was a pioneer in Britain of dermatological surgery, being thirty years ahead of his colleagues in this extremely important aspect of dermatology, especially valuable in his work as consultant dermatologist at the country’s premier cancer hospital, the Royal Marsden. He was constantly active in basic dermatological research on eczema, skin malignancy and many other fields. He broke new ground with his work on the immunologically important Langerhans cell, the hallmark of which is the Birbeck-Breathnach-Everall granule, and in the immunological therapy of melanoma by intralesional BCG injections.

John Everall was born in Twickenham, went to King’s College School, Wimbledon, and on to Guy’s Hospital as a dental student, later transferring to medicine. He was a gifted rugby player and represented Guy’s Hospital and the County of Middlesex. During the Indian summer of private practice in the late thirties he crewed on the yacht of the celebrated and fashionable general practitioner, J M Brydone. After postgraduate training in dermatology in Leeds, under the leading dermatologist of the day, John Thornton Ingram [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.252], he spent two years at the New York Skin and Cancer Hospital as a Fulbright scholar. He made and kept a number of close friends and he visited America most years. He always stayed at the New York Yacht Club where he was well known. In 1997 he was again in New York and in California teaching dermatology and visiting friends.

The strength of his personality and his tireless energy often set him at odds with colleagues but, nevertheless, the indefatigable battler was able to create from nothing an enviable and busy dermatological department at the Royal Marsden and a purpose built in- and out-patient unit at Ealing Hospital. The same strength of purpose, entrepreneurial spirit and determination was applied to his private practice in the house which he bought at 122 Harley Street where he saw patients in the late evening, often as late as 11pm. The Harley Street house, which he spent many years lovingly restoring, gave him the opportunity to indulge his perfectionism, passion and good eye for fine furniture. It was not unusual to find him with a jar of beeswax and a leather duster at midnight. He made it a Georgian jewel. However, it was his National Health appointments that brought him the greatest satisfaction, and he devoted himself to them far beyond his contracted sessions. Hospitals were invariably visited on Saturdays or Sundays. His weekend teaching ward rounds at Lambeth Hospital are remembered by generations of Thomas’s students.

Of many telling incidents in his life, two RAF wartime episodes illustrate the man. On one occasion his plane crashed in the North Sea and he survived eight hours in the icy waters off Scotland - an indication of his iron will. That he was returning from a party reflected another aspect of his character which never left him - his pleasure in living life to the full. In 1944 he served with the Tactical Airforce. He landed on the Normandy beaches ahead of the main D-Day invasion. His squadron progressed through Normandy, but not without heavy casualties, and caring for them was an experience he never forgot. His readiness to take a chance got him to Paris (and the Folies Bergère) before the Allies had arrived - and before the Germans had left. He survived that but shortly afterwards he was wounded, so severely that only his determination stopped a colleague amputating his leg. These qualities, combined with a great sense of tradition and large generosity, made him an unforgettable host whether dining in the liveried splendour of Harley Street or at the Royal Thames Yacht Club or shooting with him at his farm in Sussex or attending a conference together in New York or Paris (in France he was regarded as the archetypal English gentleman). His stature and style could never pass unnoticed and always evoked powerful feelings. Always interested in the latest news, whether medical, political or social, and never afraid of stating his opinion, he had strong views about most subjects and most people had strong views about him.

(Volume X, page 134)

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