Lives of the fellows

Neville Marriott Goodman

b.22 April 1898 d.30 April 1980
CB(1961) MRCS LRCP(1923) MB Bchir Cantab(1925) MA MD(1933) DPH Lond(1933) FRCP*(1950) PhD(1952)

D Cantab., Neville Goodman was educated at Mill Hill and Sandhurst. An only child, bespectacled and interested in wild flowers, he was an unusual candidate for a Regular Army commission, but he had (when he chose) a parade-ground voice; his mother’s father, Hunt Marriott, had been a colonel; and he did well at the Royal Military Academy.

He joined a regular battalion of the Worcester Regiment in 1917 and, though badly wounded, survived to see further service in France, Belgium, and Germany. At 20 he was a captain.

From Pembroke College, Cambridge, he went to the London Hospital, where he later held four house appointments, one to Sir Robert Hutchison.

The next seven years were spent in practice at Lymington; and had he had a family he might, like his father, have remained a general practitioner. But his marriage, in 1928, was childless, and in 1932 he took up public health.

After field experience in Surrey, he joined the Ministry of Health in 1934, and presently found himself becoming an expert on international health regulations. From 1938 he was British delegate to the Office International d’Hygiène publique and a member of the Health Committee of the League of Nations. With his friendliness, good sense, and aptitude for languages, he was quickly at home in these semidiplomatic circles.

The war stopped all that and the Ministry’s depleted staff had to cope with evacuees, probable epidemics, and the need to keep hospitals going despite the ‘blitz’. When the bombing of London began, Goodman was (central) responsible for health in the air-raid shelters at Westminster, Stepney, and Whitechapel, and at first their condition was sometimes appalling. As a sideline he was made inspector of anatomy, and in 1944 he gave an Arris and Gale lecture to the Royal College of Surgeons on the supply of bodies for dissection.

The same year saw him back in international work - now concerned less with regulations than with keeping people alive. To care for ‘displaced persons’, to restore brokendown health services, and to prevent the spread of diseases, the United Nations had set up a Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), and the Ministry of Health seconded Goodman to it as director of health for Europe. This was at a time when a European journey was often an adventure in itself. In 1947 he was given the Médaille de la Reconnaissance Française.

That same year, when the new World Health Organization (interim commission) made him director of its field services, his travels were still wider. He now lived near Geneva, and for a year he acted as assistant director-general of WHO. If he had not been slightly deaf, which handicapped him in committee, he might well have become director-general.

Rejoining the Ministry of Health in 1949, he took a full share in getting the National Health Service off the ground. Though a lifelong Liberal, he preferred planning to letting things just happen. From 1955 he was the principal medical officer concerned with hospital and local authority services in the four Metropolitan regions, and from 1960 he was one of Sir George Godber’s two deputies. As such he proved invaluable: he provided contrary opinions when needed; he helped his juniors; and he never stood on his dignity. Whether as colleague, friend, or Fellow of the College (to which he was elected under bye-law 39b), he was generous and loyal.

From 1934 to 1960 Goodman lectured on public health at his old hospital, and in 1935 he wrote the St John Ambulance Association’s manual on Hygiene. After his return from Geneva, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine made him its lecturer on international health, and his standard work on International Health Organisations appeared in 1952. His light touch made him a welcome lecturer, and his biography of his former chief, Wilson Jameson, Architect of National Health, is refreshing as well as instructive.

As a writer, his style was unadorned but, on paper as in person, he was almost always interesting - because he was himself so interested and in so much. Over the years he made some 350 unsigned contributions to The Lancet, ‘ranging from very good sense to very good nonsense.’ Before and after his retirement in 1963, official requests for advice took him to Ethiopia, the Sudan, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan; and his own inclinations took him to North America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Egypt, and Israel.

An amateur botanist and ornithologist from childhood, he had become a gardeners’ gardener, with a country garden at Wadhurst in Sussex - with a wood, a stream, and kingfishers - and a town one at his lovely 17th-century home in The Grove, Highgate Village. Also he collected bronzes, now mostly in museums.

His first wife, Beatrix Warr Edwards, died in 1970, and in 1979 he was greatly pleased by election to an honorary fellowship at her college at Oxford, Lady Margaret Hall.

In 1971 he married Phyllis Bucknell, a former colleague in UNRRA and the Ministry; and their house at Sandwich drew old friends and new. To the last, he was excellent company.

Sir Theodore Fox

[Brit.med.J., 1980, 280, 1232, 1325; Lancet, 1980, 1, 1040; Times, 3 & 10 June, 1980; WHO Chronicle, 1980, 34 (7/8)]

(Volume VII, page 214)

<< Back to List