Lives of the fellows

Arthur Wellesley Falconer

b.9 May 1880 d.26 September 1954
DSO(1918) CBE(1919) MB ChB Aberd(1901) MD Aberd(1907) LLD Aberd(1941) LLD Cape Town(1948) MRCP(1907) FRCP(1938)

Arthur Falconer, who was to become a distinguished medical officer in World War I and a brilliant professor of medicine in Cape Town, was born at Stonehaven, Kincardineshire. His father, Robert Falconer, was a solicitor who had married Mary Alexia Kinear.

After graduation at Aberdeen University and post-graduate work in Berlin and Vienna, he spent nine months as a ship’s surgeon before holding senior resident posts at Bradford and Bristol and doing further post-graduate work in London. In 1912 he settled in practice at Aberdeen, where he became assistant professor of medicine under Sir Ashley Mackintosh in 1913, and was soon affectionately known to his students as ‘Fatty Falconer’; but in 1914 was mobilised in the R.A.M.C. (T).

In 1916 he went to Salonika as officer-in-charge of the medical division of the 43rd General Hospital, and in 1917 was promoted lieutenant-colonel and appointed physician to the British Forces.

For almost two years after demobilisation he carried on his prewar post at Aberdeen and was then appointed the first professor of medicine at Cape Town, where he was to become vice-chancellor in 1938. There he won the same affectionate regard and was given the respected nickname of ‘Oubaas’ (Old Master).

His teaching was that of a sound scientific physician, based on principles of which he had a wide knowledge; cardiology, neurology, haematology and ophthalmology seemed easy to him, and were applied, not as specialties, but as part of the usual examination that followed a meticulous history and led to a clear exposition.

He therefore did valuable work for medical education in South Africa, which was acknowledged in his honorary LL.D, and his honorary fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine.

In 1914 he married Phyllis Anderson, the daughter of a colonel in the Indian Medical Service; they had one son and one daughter.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1954, 2, 932; Lancet, 1954, 2, 873; S. Afr. med. J., 1954, 28, 878-9; Times, 28 Sept. 1954.]

(Volume V, page 125)

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