Lives of the fellows

Francis Henry Knethell Green

b.27 August 1900 d.30 April 1977
CBE(1949) MRCS LRCP(1924) MRCP(1925) MB BS Lond(1926) MD(1928) FRCP(1942)

Frank Green was educated at Highgate School and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. He was the son of a stockbroker; his maternal grandfather, Henry Hicks MD FRS, was a physician and geologist. It was Frank’s own ambition to make a career as a physician. Despite his promising start, the worsening of the asthma, from which he had suffered from childhood, prevented his doing so. Having by this time developed an informed interest in the progress of medical knowledge, and having a natural flair for administration, he therefore elected for a career with the Medical Research Council. Joining its headquarters staff in 1929, he rose progressively until he occupied the third place in its hierarchy. By then his reputation was such that it was taken for granted that when his immediate superior retired he would succeed him as ‘chief of staff’. Unfortunately, his illhealth had progressed to the extent that he did not feel able to undertake such a physically demanding post.

It so happened that the Wellcome Trust had just decided to recruit a scientific secretary and its chairman, Sir Henry Dale, having worked with Green, pressed him to come. So he went to this post in 1955. There he remained until 1963 when, his ill health having again overhauled him, he retired. Nevertheless, he did not retire completely. He undertook to act as part-time scientific adviser to the British Heart Foundation and this he did until he finally had to cease work in 1967.

Thus, Frank Green’s career spanned the formative years of organization for medical research in this country, and he played a notable part in forwarding this in each of the three posts he held. It was not only that he had an admirable judgment of research in the biomedical field and an encyclopaedic knowledge of those engaged in it, nor even that he had a heartening disregard for administrative punctilio; rather it was that, for him, the research worker always came first. Not that his standards were easy. He had an unerring eye for the meretricious or slipshod, just as he had in the context of his other great interest, modern painting. But he responded with enthusiasm to a well-done piece of research, or a well conceived proposal for further investigation, and he would spare no effort to promote it. It was this that set the tone of all his dealings with research workers. It was no wonder therefore that they gave him, and the institutions he served,their confidence.

Frank Green gave the Bradshaw lecture in 1954. He was survived by his wife, Joyce (née Hinde), whom he married in 1933.

Sir Harold Himsworth

[Brit.med.J., 1977, 1, 1288; Lancet, 1977, 1, 1067; Times, 4 May 1977]

(Volume VII, page 226)

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