Lives of the fellows

James Alison Glover

b.21 February 1876 d.17 September 1963
OBE(1919) CBE(1941) BA Cantab(1897) MB BCh Cantab(1901) MA Cantab(1902) MD Cantab(1905) DPH Eng(1905) MRCP(1927) FRCP(1933)

James Alison Glover was born in Highbury in 1876, the son of Dr James Grey Glover, who was one of the first directly elected medical representatives of the profession on the General Medical Council, and Mary Muller. From St. Paul’s School, where he was a first science exhibitioner, he obtained an exhibition to St. John’s College, Cambridge, and took his B.A. in the natural sciences tripos in 1897. He next entered Guy’s Hospital, and was dresser to Mr (later Sir) Henry Howse who continued the use of the carbolic spray at all operations on and dressings of patients, and to Sir William Arbuthnot Lane.

Glover was a keen Volunteer and rifle shot and, although he had nearly completed his medical studies by 1899, he joined the City Imperial Volunteers in that year as a private and fought in the South African War. He was among those who entered Pretoria and he took part in the Battles of the Zand River and Diamond Hill and in the Wittebergen operations. When it was discovered that he was an advanced medical student, he was perforce attached to No. 2 Field Hospital of the New South Wales Army Medical Corps as an honorary lieutenant, where he dressed war casualties on the veldt and in an emergency had to operate.

After qualifying in 1901 he was at first obstetric resident to Dr A. L. Galabin at Guy’s and afterwards house surgeon to Sir Henry Morris at the Middlesex Hospital. He then joined his father in private practice, becoming also deputy medical officer of health for Islington and part-time school medical officer under the London County Council. After the death of his father in 1908 he relinquished these appointments and bought a practice at Hampstead.

In 1914 the First World War came and eventually altered the whole course of Glover’s professional career. He at once joined the R.A.M.C, at Shoreham. In 1915 he was an assistant sanitary officer in the Malta Command, and in 1916 regimental medical officer to the 6th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment at the Battle of the Somme. In 1917 he was appointed medical officer in charge of the cerebrospinal fever laboratory, London District. His investigation of this disease and reports on its epidemiology and prevention to the Medical Research Committee (Special Report Series, No. 50, 1920) and in several papers established his reputation in preventive medicine, and his findings that ‘spacing-out’ of beds prevented military epidemics of cerebro-spinal fever earned him this encomium from his director of pathology: ‘Glover, you have been a good friend of the private soldier’. He was appointed O.B.E, in 1919, and advanced to C.B.E, in 1941.

Through his distinguished war work, in 1920 Glover was appointed a medical officer of the new Ministry of Health which had replaced the Local Government Board as the central health authority. He worked at first under Sir George Buchanan, C.B., F.R.C.P., in the general health and epidemiology branch of the medical department.

With Fred Griffith Glover wrote a paper on acute tonsillitis and some of its sequels (Brit. med. J., 1931, 2, 521-7) to open the discussion in the section of public health at the annual meeting of the British Medical Association at Eastbourne in 1931. This argued the essential unity of haemolytic streptococcal infections. The following year, in a paper written jointly with Dr Joyce Wilson, he opened a discussion in the section of otolaryngology at the centenary meeting of the British Medical Association in London on the end results of the tonsil and adenoid operation in childhood and adolescence (Brit. med. 1932, 2, 806-12).

This was the first of many papers on the problem of excessive or routine tonsillectomy, the best known being the incidence of tonsillectomy in school-children published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (1938,31, 1219-36). In 1928 his paper on nasopharyngeal epidemics in public schools, read before the Royal Society of Medicine (Brit, med. J., 1928, 2, 87-91), had caused the Medical Research Council to form a committee on epidemics in schools. This committee, of which Glover became a very active member, with Dr Joyce Wilson as secretary, inaugurated a five-year inquiry which resulted in a report on the subject (M.R.C. Special Report Series, No. 227, 1938).

In 1930 he delivered the Milroy lectures before the College on the incidence of the rheumatic diseases. The year before, he had been appointed deputy senior medical officer to Dr (afterwards Sir) Arthur MacNalty, in charge of the branch dealing with tuberculosis and epidemic diseases. Here he was chiefly employed in the investigation of outbreaks of epidemic diseases and in administrative duties.

In 1934 he became senior medical officer of the Ministry of Education. He again worked closely with Sir Arthur MacNalty on such questions as the nutrition of school-children, provision of milk in schools and extension of school meals, and, as the Second World War approached, on medical arrangements for the evacuation of school-children from cities and towns. Here Glover was a tower of strength, and much of the success of the scheme when war came was due to his enthusiasm and detailed direction.

Glover retired in 1941, but was immediately re-employed as a temporary medical officer of the Ministry of Health. During the war he also served in the Home Guard as a private for one year and later for three years as medical officer to the 2nd City of London Regiment. At the Ministry of Health his duties were for the most part editorial. He edited for the chief medical officer the report, On the state of the public health during six years of war, the annual reports of the chief medical officer of the Ministry of Health for the years 1946 to 1950, and the annual reports of the medical department of the Ministry of Education for ten years.

When the Monthly Bulletin of the Ministry of Health and Public Health Laboratory Service was issued in 1943 he was the first editor. He was appointed a member of the editorial committee of the official medical history of the Second World War and contributed accounts of the school medical service and evacuation problems as well as a section on acute rheumatism to the History.

In 1951 he was awarded the Jenner memorial medal by the Royal Society of Medicine and made an honorary fellow. In 1952 he finally retired to Berkhamsted, but for several years continued to attend the Comitia of the Royal College of Physicians and meetings of the epidemiological section of the Royal Society of Medicine, of which he had been president in 1940.

In later years Glover was crippled by chronic arthritis of the hips. He was fair, fresh-complexioned, clean shaven, of strong physique, and of an equable and kindly temperament; he was a long distance swimmer up to his eightieth year, a good fencer (epée), and a keen cyclist up to seventy-five. He had many interests outside medicine. One was archaeology, and he had the good fortune to identify a fragment of the Parthenon frieze in Essex. He discovered a shrine of Aesculapius at Mudania in Asia Minor, the god being there characterised as living in a canal—a find without precedent. He also collected old cannons and other weapons of war and loved old pictures. He wrote his autobiography, but stipulated it was not to be published until after his death.

Alison Glover was a man of high integrity and Christian principles. He was a staunch advocate of total abstinence. He never did an unkind action or spoke harshly of others. He had a thousand friends and not one enemy, and was a loyal colleague and delightful companion. In 1907 Dr Glover married Katherine, daughter of C. P. Merriam, who survived him. There were four sons of the marriage, one of whom died young. Another son followed his father’s profession and specialised as an ophthalmic surgeon.

Richard R Trail

[, 1963, 2, 812-13 (p), 1003; Lancet, 1963, 2, 693 (p); Times, 19, 25 Sept. 1963.]

(Volume V, page 152)

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