Lives of the fellows

Archibald Montague Henry (Sir) Gray

b.1 February 1880 d.13 October 1967
KCVO(1959) Kt(1946) CBE(1919) TD MB BS Lond(1904) MD(1905) MRCP(1907) FRCS(1908) FRCP(1918) LLD(1958)

Archibald Montague Henry Gray, who was to become such a devoted Londoner, was born in 1880 at Ottery St. Mary, South Devon, where his father, Frederick Archibald Gray, MRCS, was a general practitioner. His mother was Louisa Frances Waterworth, daughter of John Waterworth, a schoolmaster of Cheltenham.

Sir Archibald’s great-grandfather, William Gray, was a naval surgeon and served at Trafalgar. William’s son, Thomas, was also a naval surgeon and was present at the battle of Navarino.

Gray was educated at Cheltenham College and University College Hospital, London. In 1903 he obtained his MB (Lond.) with honours, and the following year his BS with honours in obstetrics. For the next five years Gray held resident and junior appointments at University College Hospital and the Hospital for Women, Soho Square, and was fortunate in being house physician to Sir John Rose Bradford and house surgeon to Sir Victor Horsley. During this period (1905) he proceeded MD (Lond.), with honours in midwifery and diseases of women, and was awarded the University Medal. In 1907 he was admitted MRCP. In 1908 he gained the FRCS, and was elected a Fellow of University College, London.

With this record, it is not surprising that Gray decided to specialize in obstetrics and gynaecology. He became the first obstetric registrar at University College Hospital, where he performed the first Caesarean Wertheim operation in England.

In 1909, however, came a dramatic change of course. On the death of Radcliffe-Crocker, the post of physician for Diseases of the Skin at UCH became vacant, while no early opening seemed likely in obstetrics and gynaecology. The authorities at UCH were so impressed with Gray’s record that they offered him the dermatological appointment, after six months’ study under Professor J. Jadassohn at Berne.

That same year, he was commissioned as an Officer in the University Training Corps on its foundation, and it is convenient to interpolate here a sketch of his services to the Armed Forces. During the 1914-1918 War, Gray was attached to the General Staff at the War Office with the rank of Lt.-Colonel, RAMC (TA). From 1918-1919, he was Consulting Dermatologist Army Zone, BEF, and was mentioned in despatches. After the war, he commanded the medical unit of the University OTC and was awarded the TD. From 1924 to 1945 he was Hon. Consulting Dermatologist to the RAF. From 1931 to 1933 he was a member of the Government Committee on the Medical Services of the Navy, Army and Air Force.

Sir Archibald’s dermatological career was distinguished on the clinical side and even more so on the administrative. He held his post as Physician in Charge of the Skin Department at University College Hospital for 37 years, for part of which period he also conducted the VD Department. For the combined departments he secured four 5-bedded wards, and also rooms in the Medical School. The latter facilitated the installing of Dr. Walter Freudenthal from Jadassohn’s clinic in the early Nazi period, and the eventual establishment of a Readership in Cutaneous Histology.

In 1913 Gray was editor and one of the secretaries of the dermatological section of the 17th International Congress of Medicine in London. This may well have been the mainspring of his subsequent enthusiastic encouragement of international contacts. He acted as Britain’s representative on the international committee that planned dermatological congresses; was Vice-President of the 8th International Congress of Dermatology at Copenhagen in 1930; and President of the 10th International Congress in London in 1952. His reputation abroad was shown by his election as Honorary Member of twelve foreign societies.

It was also in 1913 that Gray became a member of the Council of the Section of Dermatology at the Royal Society of Medicine, of which he was to become President from 1931 to 1933. Of the Society as a whole he was Hon. Secretary from 1919 till 1924, Hon. Treasurer from 1926 to 1932, and President from 1940 to 1942. In 1918 he was elected FRCP, and in 1919 appointed CBE.

From 1920 to 1934 Gray was in charge of the Skin Department of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. It was here that he made his important observations on sclerema neonatorum, which he reported in a paper read at the Golden Anniversary Meeting of the American Dermatological Association at Philadelphia in 1926. His experience in paediatric dermatology was extended by his appointment as Consulting Dermatologist (1935 to 1951) to Goldie Leigh Hospital, where all children with skin troubles under the care of the London County Council were collected.

In 1916, Gray became Editor of the British Journal of Dermatology (founded in 1888), a post which he held for thirteen years. It was partly for the purpose of financially supporting and controlling this journal, that in 1919 Gray suggested the formation of the British Association of Dermatology, and it came into being in 1921. It was mainly Gray’s creation, and he nurtured it with unceasing affection. He was President in 1938-9. From 1940 to 1960 he was Treasurer, during which time he quintupled its funds. In 1957 he conceived the idea of offering £2500 to the Royal College of Physicians towards the expenses of its new building in Regent’s Park, on condition that a room be named the Robert Willan Room. This was accepted, and here there have already been collected an original oil-painting of Willan, original drawings of his Atlas, as well as manuscripts and other objects of historical interest. It is also used regularly for meetings. In spite of illness, Sir Archibald was able to be present at a party at the college, held on 21 October 1965, to mark the opening of the Willan Room. In 1963 the British Association of Dermatology established the Archibald Gray Prize and Medal, awarded every five years for outstanding work in dermatology.

Of at least equal importance was his pioneer work for the Institute of Dermatology, which was bound up with his work for postgraduate teaching generally. From 1935 Gray represented London University on the Governing Body of the Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith, and was for a time its chairman. With Sir Francis Fraser he planned the expansion of the School at Hammersmith into a Federation of specialist institutes. Later, with a few others, they made that recommendation to the Goodenough Committee on Organization of Medical Schools, of which he was a member from 1942 to 1944. In 1947 the British Postgraduate Medical Federation was created, and Gray was appointed representative of the Senate of London University on its first Governing Body, and remained a member till 1960. Sir Francis considered that Gray’s work for the University of London and postgraduate medical education generally was of even greater importance than his services to dermatology.

During the same period, 1947-1960, he was the first Chairman of the Committee of Management of the Institute of Dermatology, of which he was also Chairman. One of the urgent practical tasks was to find adequate in-patient accommodation. In this task he was greatly assisted by his experience gained in carrying out with Andrew Topping a Survey of London Hospitals for the Ministry of Health, the report of which had been published in 1945. It was not, however, till 1959, the year before Gray retired from the Chairmanship at the age of 80, that the Institute was officially recognized as a member of the British Postgraduate Medical Federation.

From 1948 to 1962 Gray was adviser in dermatology to the Ministry of Health; from 1949-59 Chairman of the Medical Mycology Committee of the Medical Research Council. In 1951 he delivered the Harveian Oration on "History of Dermatology since the Time of Harvey", and in 1954 the Prosser White Oration on "The Founders of Modern Dermatology".

In 1960, at the age of 80, he gave up his private practice, but continued to live in London. His last public appearance before illness confined him to his home was at the Prosser White Oration in October 1966.

Now we turn to his activities outside dermatology, some of which have already been touched upon.

University College Hospital and Medical School were primary recipients of his services and influence. From 1926 to 1935 Gray was both Dean of the Medical School and Chairman of the Medical Committee of the Hospital. In 1948 he became Chairman of the Medical School Council and a member of the Board of Governors of the hospital, holding the former post for four years, and the latter for five. In 1967 he became a Vice-Patron of the hospital.

More important still was Gray’s work for the University of London as a whole. From 1929 to 1950 he was a Member of the Senate; 1932-6 Dean of the Faculty of Medicine; 1938-9 Deputy Vice-Chancellor; 1941-50 Chairman of Professoriate Committee; 1945 member of the commission that visited Trinidad to investigate possibilities of starting a medical school there; 1947-58 Member of the Court; 1949-51 member of Special Advisory Board in Veterinary Medicine; 1949-64 Vice-Chairman of the Council of the School of Pharmacy (elected Hon. Fellow in 1965); 1950-2 Member of the General Medical Council, representing the University; 1951-61 Chairman, Board of Management, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1958 the University conferred on him an Honorary LLD, the Gazette declaring: "If one achievement may be singled out… to which he has contributed as much as any one man, let it be the establishment of London as the great centre of postgraduate medical studies."

Various other bodies too were indebted to Gray:— 1935 Vice-Chairman London Voluntary Hospitals Committee; 1948-54 Member of the Board of Governors of the National Hospitals for Nervous Diseases; 1948-59 Chairman, Distribution Committee of King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London; 1950-51 President of the Cheltonian Society.

Honours came to him and were highly prized. In 1946 he was Knighted, and in 1959 created KCVO.

In 1917 Gray married Elsie Cooper, RRC, daughter of F. Bernard Cooper of Newcastle-under-Lyme. They had one son and one daughter. Their son John (Sir John Gray, FRCP) became Professor of Physiology at University College, London, and later Secretary of the Medical Research Council.

After a long disabling illness, Sir Archibald died in London on 13 October 1967 at the age of 87.

Gray’s physical appearance was unimpressive. He was small and drably dressed, but his voice was clear and strong, and his speaking and writing were lucid and cogent. As a clinical teacher, helped by an almost photographic memory of cases, he was sound and convincing. Of his dermatological prowess, however, he was modest.

In administrative work he was more sure of his talent. He did not seek the limelight, but did enjoy holding the reins of government. Sir Archibald arrived at his conclusions logically, and held his opinions so strongly that he could be impatient with those who disagreed. But he never harboured any rancour and was essentially friendly. He had a liberal outlook, and at his death there were many warm tributes, from this country and abroad, to his helpfulness to younger men and women, and especially to many who were hampered by prejudices against race, sex or religion.

He lived simply, with a touch of disdain for aesthetic pleasures. In his family he was affectionate, fortunate and happy.

WN Goldsmith

[Brit.med.J., 1967, 4, 178, 301, 365, 493; Lancet, 1967, 2, 897, 948; Times, 14 Oct 1967; Univ. Lond. Gazette 1958, 45, 21; Brit.J.Derm., 1967, 79, 706; Brit.J.Derm., 1970, 83, 119; Hautarz, 1967, 18, 561; DNB]

(Volume VI, page 206)

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