Lives of the fellows

Louis Forman

b.15 June 1901 d.13 November 1988
MRCS LRCP(1923) MB BS Lond(l924) MRCP(1925) MD(1926) FRCP(1939)

Louis Forman was born at Portsmouth, the eldest son of Itzhak and Annie Sarah Fogelman. Brought up in an orthodox Jewish family, Louis was proud of being a Jew whilst regarding religion as a superstition; he was an agnostic with little time for orthodoxy.

He went to Guy’s as a medical student in 1918 and did very well, winning the Golding-Bird gold medal and scholarship in 1922. After graduation he was appointed assistant house surgeon to Sir Arthur Fripp from February to April 1923, outpatients officer May-July, house physician to John Fawcett [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV.p.437], and was appointed medical registrar 1924-25. He obtained his membership of the College in 1925 and his MD the following year, and was appointed as general physician to St Olave’s, and in the fever service.

After an argument with Sir Arthur Hurst [Munk's Roll,Vol.IV,p.509], in which Louis accused the great man of tampering with experimental results, he was not appointed to a medical post - and medicine’s loss was dermatology’s gain. He was appointed chief clinical assistant and registrar to the skin department in 1928, and chief clinical assistant to the actinotherapeutic department 1930-32.

On Geoffrey Dowling’s appointment to St Thomas’s [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII.p. 163], Louis Forman was appointed to the staff of Guy’s as consultant physician in diseases of the skin and remained in this post until September 1967. After his retirement he continued to come to weekly histology meetings and ward rounds, and was a respected and constant attender at meetings where his encyclopaedic knowledge and wise counsel were much in demand. From his gastroenterological experience he retained a vivid interest in the relationship of the gut and skin, and it remained one of his research interests.

During the war Louis Forman was responsible for dermatological patients at over a dozen hospitals in the Guy’s sector; he was sub-dean for students at Farnborough Hospital, and active in the Home Guard with the rank of acting major.

He was president of the British Association of Dermatology and of the St John’s Dermatological Society, as well as the section of dermatology at the Royal Society of Medicine. He was also an honorary fellow of the RSM.

A small man with thick glasses, he was a constant figure at meetings, carefully peering at patients, taking exact histories and examining every patient minutely, even when others had given up. He was an excellent teacher and encouraged the young; he was a good listener and made even inexperienced doctors feel they had much to contribute. For years he had an interest in Demodex and made an early film of this inhabitant of the human hair folicle. This film is now in the collection of the Natural History Museum, at their request.

Louis Forman had great charm and good humour. He was completely without malice and, although a shrewd observer, always thought the best of everyone. A frugal man, he always went by tube or bus and rarely spent money on himself, except on books and his glass collection; he was a knowledgeable collector of glasses and glass paper weights.

Lolly, as he was known to generations of dermatologists, enjoyed tennis, wrestling, and playing the piano and although in his later years failing eyesight prevented all these he still enjoyed music and concerts. His main ‘hobby’ however was dermatology and in the last few years a devoted friend read to him for three or four hours daily. Until shortly before his death he was more ‘up to date’ than anyone else, thanks to constant reading and a remarkable memory, complementing his own experience. Lolly enjoyed holidays - as long as they were short, and he particularly liked coming back from them. As a young man he had enjoyed fast cars - and had owned some.

S Alexander

[, l988,297,1604; Guy's Hosp. Gaz., Feb 1989]

(Volume VIII, page 163)

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