Lives of the fellows

Frank Scott Fowweather

b.1893 d.25 February 1980
MSc Liverp(1915) MB ChB(1922) DPH(1924) MD(1925) MRCP(1934) FRCP(1943)

Born in Bolton, Lancashire, Frank Fowweather had an elder brother and two sisters. His father owned a cutler’s shop in nearby Blackburn. He attended the local elementary and grammar school where he had an excellent academic record; he then went to Liverpool University to study medicine. Emerging with an MSc in chemistry, at the beginning of the first world war, he was appointed chief chemist to a firm making explosives in Huddersfield. During this period he also travelled to Manchester to give evening lectures in mathematics. At the end of the war he returned to Liverpool and became a partner in a small firm of consulting analysts, but then decided to take up medicine and began studies at the Liverpool Medical School. During this time he retained his position as an analyst, working on a part time basis. Following his success in obtaining a medical qualification, he studied further and obtained the Liverpool Diploma in Public Health. Working next as a general practitioner in Ellesmere Port, he numbered among his patients many bargees and their families, and often commented on the difficulties of practising medicine in the cramped conditions of a barge.

In 1924 he was appointed lecturer in the department of pathology at Leeds University. Berkeley (later Lord) Moynihan wrote the foreward to a book called Handbook of Clinical Chemical Pathology written in 1929, by the then Dr Fowweather, on the basis of lectures given to medical students in his capacity as head of the chemical pathology section. As a lecturer Frank Fowweather was clear, concise, and precise. Publications of his original work were appearing in scientific journals on such subjects as the determination of fat in faeces (1926), and the determination of urea clearance (1934). This latter work led to some controversy. Fowweather advocated giving the patient 15 g of urea orally and determining the blood urea level during the second hour, when he argued the level was effectively constant. Opponents of the idea of administering urea pointed out that to produce a changing urea level just at a time when a constant value was required negated any analytical advantage.

In 1931 Frank Fowweather was promoted reader in chemical pathology. He was made a Fellow of the College in 1943. About this time the department moved from the General Infirmary at Leeds to the new, nearly completed, Institute of Pathology. During the second world war he continued with his university duties, and served as medical officer to the North East Leeds Home Guard. He became professor of chemical pathology in 1946.

The following year saw some expansion of his department with a modest increase in staff, but Frank Fowweather failed to seize the opportunity, made available by increased demand for clinical biochemical work at that time, to expand both the routine and research aspects of the department’s work. He largely confined it to the provision of a basic biochemical service to the Infirmary. This stemmed in no small way from his lack of ability as a negotiator, committee man and diplomat. He was outright in his condemnation of things of which he did not approve, and failed to lend support to colleagues’ projects when reciprocal support for his own department would, undoubtedly, have followed. A further consequence of this was that he numbered few of his clinical or university colleagues as close friends.

He continued, however, to exercise his undoubted skill as an analyst. He also conducted a study of orthostatic albuminuria occurring in young men being medically examined for service in the armed forces (1953). His ability at accurate manipulation was further emphasized at this time when he took up bookbinding as a hobby. He bound the many separate issues of scientific and medical journals in his possession into a series of annual volumes; beautifully bound and gold lettered, the books were a tribute to his skill and care. He retained a connection with Liverpool University by continuing his membership of the University Masonic Lodge where, after serving as Master, he was given Provincial Honours.

Ill health precipitated his retirement in 1956 at the age of 63, when he was created emeritus professor. He left Leeds to live at Wirral, where he had family connections and friends, and most of his time was spent quietly at home with his wife. There were no children of the marriage. His hobbies were golf and fox terriers.

AT Howarth

(Volume VII, page 194)

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