Lives of the fellows

Alfred White Franklin

b.2 June 1905 d.20 September 1984
MRCS LRCP(1929) MRCP(1932) MA(1933) MB Bchir Cantab(1933) FRCP(1942) Hon FCST

Alfred White Franklin, nicknamed ‘the bishop’ by those who knew him well, was born in London, the son of an otorhinolaryngologist, Philip Franklin and his wife Ethel Julia. He was educated at The Hall, Hampstead, and Epsom College. He then gained a scholarship to study medicine at Clare College, Cambridge, pursuing his clinical studies at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, where he was Lawrence scholar and a gold medallist. From 1934-35 he was Temple Cross research fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital, returning to Bart’s as assistant physician to the children’s department.

In 1937 he was appointed assistant to Alan Moncrieff, later Sir Alan, [Munk's Roll, Vol. VI,p. 343] at Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital, and became one of the earlier neonatologists working in this country. In a sense he was a progenitor of what has now become a major sub-specialty. During the war years he was paediatrician to Sector 3 of the Emergency Medical Service, working at Hill End and St Alban’s Hospitals. In 1942 he was elected a Fellow of the College, and in 1945 he was appointed physician to the children’s department at Bart’s, becoming physician in charge of the department in 1965 under its new title, the department of child health.

Alfred White Franklin had a natural affinity with children. He had a quiet, reassuring approach which gained their trust and affection. As a teacher he was sympathetic and stimulating. His teaching sessions were held in the playroom of the Kenton Ward at Bart’s, where students were offered an object lesson in his concern for the total needs of sick and handicapped children. Some twenty years or more ago, students and their child patients were more apprehensive in each others’ presence than they are today and Alfred’s style of teaching put both sides at their ease. His friendliness and gentle voice made it possible to conduct clinical consultation and demonstration without distress to the young patient. He also had an intuitive understanding of the problems and distress, both emotional and practical, suffered by the family of a sick - perhaps mortally - or handicapped child. To such families, and particularly to the parents, he gave not only his skill and wisdom but also the sympathy, counselling and understanding which they needed so badly. He felt deeply for mothers who had lost a baby, and for the parents of a newborn child with a congenital defect, and would spend long hours of a busy and tiring day consoling and advising those who needed his help.

White Franklin was on the Council of the College from 1966-69, president of the British Paediatric Association from 1968-69, president of the British Society for Medical History from 1974-76, and president of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect from 1981-82. He guided the Invalid Children’s Aid Society through difficult years and during its development of the dyslexia centre and schools for boys with asthma. When the full extent of child abuse became apparent in the late ’60s, White Franklin became the acknowledged doyen of those working in that field in this country. He took a prominent part in the Tunbridge Wells symposium and was instrumental in holding together the various professions - doctors, social workers and lawyers, whose collaboration was essential if problems were to be resolved in the best interests of the child, the family and the State. Alfred recognized that it was necessary for paediatricians to become knowledgeable and active in their diagnosis of children suffering from abuse and neglect and to seek ways of preventing it. His capacity for organization, his personal authority and gift for writing, were all widely used to promote meetings for postgraduate education in this field.

Alfred White Franklin was also the founder, with W R Bett, of The Osier Club of London, and was Osier orator at the College in 1971. He was a friend of the Osier Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University, Montreal, from its beginning. Over the years his interest in Osier, in the Osier Club and the Osier Library, never flagged.

After his retirement Alfred edited several books on child abuse, a subject which particularly interested him, and also on medical history, including a biography of William Osier. His own writings included Widening Horizons of child health..., Lancaster, MTP Press, 1976 and Pastoral Paediatrics, Tunbridge wells, Pitman Medical, 1976.

Alfred White Franklin was a short man of portly build, always well dressed in the traditional style of the teaching hospital consultant. His appearance, his mannerisms and even his sly sense of humour had their roots in a past age, but he was a shrewd judge of men and affairs and was always receptive and productive of new ideas, even into old age. His intellect was outstanding, linked to kindliness and humility, and a fierce determination to do what he considered to be right.

He had married Ann Vaisey in 1943, daughter of Francis Vaisey, a clerk in Holy Orders, and they had four children - two daughters and two sons. He delighted in his family and considered them the crowning adornments of his career. His wife and family survived him.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[, 1984,289,1082,1703; Lancet, 1984,2,880,994; The Times 4 Oct 1984; St Bart's Hosp. J., 1970,74,325-26;1967,71,242]

(Volume VIII, page 166)

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