Lives of the fellows

Ernest Martin Foulkes

b.24 May 1902 d.9 May 1993
CBE(1977) DEng Berlin(1929) Hon FRCP(1988) Hon MD Newcastle(1991)

Ernest Foulkes was born in Frankfurt and, after completing his early education, studied at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin where he obtained a doctorate in engineering, specializing in factory planning. In view of the rising popularity of Hitler and the Nazi Party he left Germany for Spain in 1933, where he was joined by his fiancee, Senta, and where they were married in 1935 - in a language that neither understood. They soon realized that the Spanish political climate was becoming increasingly unstable and in 1936 they came to the UK.

With little capital, Foulkes established a company to make machine tools which were at that time in short supply. With the advent of war with Germany, a bizarre bureaucracy decreed that he be interned on the Isle of Man as a ‘friendly enemy alien’ but not his wife, whose efforts on his behalf secured his release within a year. After the war, Foulkes’ company - Measuring and Scientific Equipment (MSE) - turned to the development of centrifuges and other specialized laboratory equipment and as a result of his expertise, energy and determination, it soon became known as a ‘best buy' the world over. In 1966 it was one of the first companies to win the Queen’s Award for export achievement.

Ernest Foulkes became increasingly aware of the need in medical research for more doctors to be highly trained in both scientific research and clinical medicine. Yet many young postdoctoral scientists wishing to embark on medical research faced financial difficulties should they wish to return to university to study medicine.

In 1972, when Foulkes sold MSE to Fisons, he endowed the Foulkes Foundation in order to assist annually six to eight exceptionally able young scientists to train in medicine, selected by a panel of scientists and doctors. To date, over 120 Foulkes Fellowships have been appointed and in 1982 the operations of the Foundation were extended to Israel, with special emphasis on biotechnology. There are now Foulkes Foundation Fellows working worldwide. The Foundation also offers financial assistance to junior doctors to enable them to attend the annual Science and Medicine conferences at the College.

British medicine and medical science have cause to be grateful for the contributions made by Ernest Foulkes. In public recognition of his work he was awarded the CBE, and also the Independence Coin by the State of Israel.

Sadly, his final years were marred by failing sight and painful arthritis. Senta survived him, and their daughter Maureen continues his work as chairman of the Foulkes Foundation.

R F Mahler

[The Independent, 8 July 1993]

(Volume IX, page 177)

<< Back to List