Lives of the fellows

David George Ferriman

b.17 Jan 1907 d.2 Dec 1990
BM BCh Oxon(1932) MRCP(1936)DM(1938)FRCP(1963)

David Ferriman was the son of George Prince Ferriman, a bank clerk. His mother, Mary Elizabeth née Webster, was the daughter of a missionary. He was born at Lechdale, Gloucestershire, and educated at Lord Weymouth's Grammar School, Warminster, and Dean Close School, Cheltenham. Subsequently, he entered Oriel College, Oxford, to study medicine and undertook his clinicals at Westminster Hospital, London.

After graduation he spent a year doing house appointments at the Westminster before going to St Pancras Hospital as junior assistant medical officer. In 1936 he returned to the Westminster Hospital as assistant medical registrar, and later medical registrar, a position he held until 1939. In that same year he married Pauline Malet Kirkpatrick, a nurse and the daughter of a clergyman. There were three daughters of the marriage.

He was a physician in the EMS from 1939-40; then he joined the RAF. From 1942-44 he served in West Africa and in 1945 he was promoted to acting wing commander and placed in charge of the medical division of Northallerton RAF Hospital.

On return to civilian life David Ferriman was appointed consultant physician at the North Middlesex Hospital, London. He made considerable contributions to the development of his hospital and to his specialty, although appointed as a general physician he soon developed an interest in endocrinolgy. In 1953, when isotope laboratories were uncommon, he played a leading part in setting one up. This was an important adjunct to the hospital as a whole and developed into a department of medical physics. He was an early member of the Thyroid Club and first president of the Ovarian Club. From 1964-66 he was honorary secretary of the endocrine section of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Although David's main interest in endocrinology was in diseases of the thyroid gland, he also had an interest in anovular infertility and in female hirsutism. He devised a scoring system for recording the extent and severity of hirsutism in women that received wide acceptance.

Postgraduate education was a subject close to his heart. His interest was originally aroused on joining the staff of the North Middlesex. Ivor Lewis, a surgeon and medical director of the hospital, had instituted weekly ward rounds for the local general practitioners in 1937 - one of the first, if not the first hospital, in the country to do so. These ward rounds were taken in turn by physicians and surgeons. They were happy, informal occasions in which David Ferriman was in his element. They continued until made superfluous by the development of academic centres.

In 1962, Sir George Pickering [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.464] drew attention to the lack of facilities for postgraduate medical education in regional hospitals. This prompted Ferriman to set in motion plans for an academic centre at the North Middlesex Hospital. In the conditions prevailing at the time the money for the venture had to be raised privately. There were setbacks but eventually a purpose built centre was opened. As a tribute to him and to his service to postgraduate education, both locally as clinical tutor and nationally as honorary secretary of the National Association of Clinical Tutors, the library was named The David Ferriman Library.

In charge of a large medical unit he led a busy professional life. From his earliest days he was appreciative of the value of clinical research. During his service with the RAF in West Africa, he published papers on his experience with malaria and bacillary dysentry and after the war he continued to write. Apart from contributions to books and periodicals, he wrote some 70 papers - some of them jointly.

In all his undertakings, David Ferriman gave himself unsparingly, moved by a quiet determination. Dedicated and sincere, he was a popular colleague. He had a pleasant disposition, enlivened by a puckish sense of humour, and he led a full, happy and successful life. He was particularly happy in his home at the bottom of Highgate Hill where, supported by his wife Pauline, he was a warm and generous host. By his foresight and tenacity David Ferriman achieved much.

T M Hennebry

[Brit.med.J., 1991,302,1331]

(Volume IX, page 170)

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