Lives of the fellows

Cyril William Curtis Bain

b.5 June 1895 d.14 August 1987
MC(1918) MA BM BCh Oxon(1922) MRCP(1924) DM(1933) FRCP(1938)

Curtis Bain was senior physician to Harrogate General Hospital, a distinguished cardiologist, son of a remarkable father, and president of the BMA in 1949 - the first year of the National Health Service.

He was born at Thornfield, near Manchester. His father, William Bain, spent twelve years in general practice at Heaton Chapel, where he married Ellen Curtis. He gained the membership of the College, was elected FRCS Edinburgh, and settled in Harrogate as a spa physician, being elected a Fellow of the College in 1912 [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV, p.522]. Curtis Bain grew up in an atmosphere of medical research and practice in Harrogate, and was educated at Wellington College, Christ Church Oxford and St Thomas’s Hospital, London.

His studies were interrupted by the first world war, when he was gazetted to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in August 1914 and saw active service in France and Flanders with the West Riding Regiment attached to the Machine Gun Corps. He ended the war with the rank of major, was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.

In 1917, with a shortage of doctors, he was asked to resume his studies and qualified in 1922. After early appointments at St Thomas’s he became RMO at the National Heart Hospital before being appointed physician at Harrogate General Hospital, and to the cardiographic department at the Royal Bath Hospital. He obtained the membership of the College in 1924, the DM in 1933, and was elected a Fellow in 1938.

Like his father before him, he combined a busy practice in a Yorkshire spa town with active research, and wrote several original papers on the electrocardiograph and conduction defects. A walking holiday in the Black Forest in the spring of 1928 started a fruitful collaboration with Terence East of King’s College, with whom he wrote Recent Advances in Cardiology, London, J&A Churchill, 1929, which went to five editions before passing to Wallace Brigden. He also served on the council of the British Cardiac Society.

A loyal BM A member, he was honorary secretary of the Harrogate division from 1925-29, chairman from 1939-46, and as president welcomed the British Medical Association to its annual meeting in Harrogate in 1949. Meetings of the scientific sections were extended to four days, and the handbook included an advertisement for the fourth edition of Recent Advances.... His presidential address was on the theme ‘Man and the machine’, in which he warned his colleagues against making machines their masters. Reliance upon tests, he said, engendered a habit of mind in which more confidence was felt in a figure than in an opinion based upon clinical judgement.

He was a tall, precise, commanding figure. On his consulting room wall he had a map of Harrogate indicating the distribution of rheumatic fever cases, and his electrocardiogram became a feature of domiciliary practice in the town.

He retired to St Ives, Cornwall, in 1958 and, already a keen walker and trout fisher, taught himself to sail. For 15 years - based on Falmouth - he explored the roads, and the Helford River in his cruiser Zest, with his customary determination. Who's Who gave gardening as his later recreation. He renewed his friendship with Terence East as they investigated the Cornish saints together.

In 1930 he married Diana Pease, who survived him together with their daughter, a general practitioner in Portsmouth, and their two sons; one of whom is an ENT surgeon in Ontario. Fortunately, his enquiring mind and forthright views remained intact until his death, which followed an operation for a fractured hip.

AG Stewart

[Brit.med.J. 1987,295,790; The Times, 21 Aug 1987]

(Volume VIII, page 13)

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