Lives of the fellows

Lawrence Paul Garrod

b.1 December 1895 d.11 September 1979
BA Cantab(1918) MA(1921) MB BChir(1921) LMSSA(1923) MRCP(1923) MD(1933) FRCP(1936)

Lawrence Paul Garrod was the son of an Exeter draper, Cubitt Garrod. His mother was Gertrude Darelly, daughter of Samuel Davey. He was a second cousin of Sir Archibald Garrod who preceded him on the staff of St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Lawrence was at school at St Peter’s, Exmouth, going from there to Didcot School and then to King’s College, Cambridge. His medical education at Cambridge and Bart’s was interrupted by service as a surgeon sublieutenant RNVR in 1917 and 1918. At Bart’s he was an outstanding student, winning the senior medical prize, the Brackenbury scholarship. In 1924 he became chief assistant to Morley Fletcher, and at that stage seemed bound for the staff of the hospital as a physician. But in 1925 he turned to pathology and ultimately to bacteriology. He was a reader in the University of London in 1929 and professor in 1934, a post that he held with that of bacteriologist to the hospital and bacteriologist to the City of London, until his retirement in 1961.

At Bart’s he was a well known and respected figure, and his opinion was frequently sought. With his clinical background and his very extensive laboratory experience, he did much to direct bacteriologists towards the much more clinical role of the medical microbiologist today. Not the easiest of men to know, he had a disconcerting manner that discouraged some of the senior and junior staff, and although it was probably due to shyness, he could appear aloof. At home he was very different, and in his letters expressed himself more freely than he did in conversation at work.

For the thousands of Bart’s men who passed through his hands Garrod may well be remembered best as a teacher. His lectures were lucid and were illustrated by anecdotes, some of which were passed down as part of student folk-lore. A meticulous attender at his practical classes, he enjoyed demonstrating his own very considerable technical ability.

From his early days, Garrod had an enquiring mind, and before the war he had, by chance, become interested in disinfectants and their actions. In this field, that attracts the serious attention of few doctors, he rapidly became one of the country’s recognized experts, and his name was attached to a standard test. This early training left him ideally placed for the examination first of the sulphonamides, and then antibiotics. The war years were spent in relative exile at St Albans, running a clinical pathology laboratory, but despite this he continued his active engagement in research, and with the introduction of penicillin he began his extensive contribution to the literature of chemotherapy. For many years, with his assistant, Pamela Water- worth, each new antibiotic was studied and its properties and actions described. Antibiotic and Chemotherapy, written first with Mary Barber and then with Francis O’Grady, enabled him to show his thorough grasp of this extensive subject.

Apart from papers on chemotherapy, Garrod’s literary contributions to medicine were remarkable, both for their size and quality. With Geoffrey Hadfleld, he was responsible for five very successful editions of Recent Advances in Pathology, and with REO Williams and others he was an author of Hospital Infection — Causes and Prevention. For many years he edited the British Journal of Experimental Pathology. As a critic of a paper he had few rivals, and it is possible that this ability hampered the freer expansion of his own research work.

Probably his influence extended most widely through his work for the British Medical Journal. From 1931 until shortly before he died he was in constant demand for leading articles, annotations and book reviews, which he wrote, in the Editor’s words, with ‘effortless ease, precision of style, accuracy of fact and a certain marked honesty that has been vastly refreshing’. His opinion was frequently sought on the suitability of papers submitted for publication, and for a time he was chairman of the Journal Committee. Retirement did not slow his pen, and he continued writing and responding to the many calls to lecture in this country and abroad.

Professional recognition came his way with honours and appointments. He was a member of committees of the Department of Health, the Medical Research Council and WHO. As an examiner he served the Universities of London, Oxford and Cambridge. He was elected president of his section of the Royal Society of Medicine, vice-president of the British Medical Association, president of the Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology, consultant in antibiotics to the Army, and on retirement, honorary consultant in chemotherapy to the Royal Postgraduate School. Glasgow awarded him an honorary doctorate of law, the University of Louvain conferred on him the title of honorary alumnus, and the Royal College of Pathologists elected him an honorary Fellow.

In 1922 he married Marjorie, daughter of Bedford Pierce MD, FRCP, superintendent of The Retreat, York. They had a daughter and three sons, two of whom qualified as doctors.

RA Shooter

[, 1979, 2, 740; Lancet, 1979, 2, 647; Daily Telegraph, 12 Sept 1979]

(Volume VII, page 203)

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