Lives of the fellows

Charles Raymond Greene

b.17 April 1901 d.6 December 1982
BA Oxon(1924) MA(1927) MRCS LRCP(1928) BM BCh(1929) MRCP(1943) FRCP(1964)

Raymond Greene was born into a united and talented family. Of his brothers, one was to become the distinguished author Graham Greene and another was to be Sir Hugh Carlton Greene, one time director general of the BBC. Like his brothers, Raymond was educated at Berkhamsted School, where his father was headmaster. He went up to Pembroke College, Oxford, as senior open scholar and Theodore Williams scholar in medicine. From there he went to the Westminster Hospital with a scholarship in anatomy and physiology. He graduated in 1927 and did a number of resident jobs at the Westminster Hospital. He was offered a registrarship in paediatrics but had to refuse this on financial grounds as his father had been forced by illness to retire early. A brief spell with a well organized general practice in Wisbech gave him an enthusiasm for family doctoring and he happily joined Dr Counsell in a large practice in Oxford. Here he loved the social mix of his patients and developed his skills as a very personal doctor. Dr Counsell proved to be a most accommodating senior partner, as he allowed Raymond to continue his career as a mountaineer. Raymond had learnt from his father how to climb in the Lake District and he had spent much of his undergraduate time climbing in the Lakes and the Alps. So it was not surprising that he joined the Himalayan expedition to Mount Kamet in 1931. He proved to be a strong climber and an equable team member. As a doctor he developed an interest in the problems of high altitude and cold. In pursuing this subject he was Schorstein research fellow of Oxford University from 1932 to 1934. The highlight of his career as a climber came with his membership of the 1933 Everest expedition. These experiences led to his training of commandos during the second world war, and his appointment by the Royal College of Surgeons as Hunterian professor in 1943 when he lectured on injury due to cold.

Returning to general practice after the Everest venture, he married Eleanor Craven of the USA and achieved his DM (Oxon) in 1935. His interest in endocrinology gradually grew, at first by working as clinical assistant at the Radcliffe and the endocrine clinic of the Westminster Hospital. When war came he started his career as a hospital physician, being attached to a sector hospital in Aylesbury and teaching medicine to the students of the Middlesex Hospital. He still found time for personal study and passed the MRCP examination in 1943. At the end of the war he set up practice in Harley Street and became physician to the Metropolitan Hospital. When the National Health Service was inaugurated he had become consulting physician to the Royal Northern Hospital and to the thyroid clinic at New End Hospital, Hampstead. This clinic had been set up by the LCC and developed by Jack Linnell and Sir Geoffrey Keynes.

With the expert surgical help of Jack Piercy, Raymond made New End into a leading centre for the study and treatment of thyroid disease, and then expanded the unit to cover the whole of endocrinology. At the Royal Northern he continued to be a very general physician and was elected FRCP in 1954. Inevitably his practice drew more and more patients with endocrine disorders. Raymond’s own contributions to thyroid research were mainly his study of lymphoid changes in the thyrotoxic thyroid and their implication in the development of postoperative myxoedema (this preceded the discovery of auto-immune thyroiditis), and his work on the solitary thyroid nodule for which he was rewarded with a second Hunterian professorship. More important, he attracted a steady flow of overseas experts to New End and a mass of patients with every variety of thyroid disease. He encouraged others’ research with steady fund raising and personal support. In due course he was to be chairman of the International Goitre Conference held in London in 1960, and vice-president of the European Thyroid Association, which he did much to form.

Raymond was one of that small band of physicians who made endocrinology a respectable specialty in this country. He was a founder member of the section of endocrinology of the Royal Society of Medicine and later its president. But he was always the patient’s doctor rather than the specialist. He looked back at his ‘ten years before the mast’ in general practice as essential training for a consultant physician and regarded endocrinology as a bastion of general medicine.

By temperament and physique he was an imposing character. His air of succeeding without really trying irritated some, but it belied a rigid discipline of hard work. He endured a most painful treatment of a pharyngeal cancer with stoic courage, only taking pride in the fact that he continued to work throughout that time. He liked doing things himself, a trait well exemplified when appointed personal physician to General de Gaulle on his State visit to this country as president of France. Raymond organized all the medical details of the visit with minimal recourse to the authorities. The award of the Cross of the Legion of Honour he described as ‘undeserved and unexpected’.

As befitted the Greene family, Raymond had a great love of the English language, using the spoken and written word with meticulous artistry. He had a long association with Heinemann Medical Books, as a director for 20 years and as chairman for a decade. His autobiographical sketches showed his skill as a raconteur and were aptly titled Moments of Being; he really enjoyed being alive. In the Johnsonian sense he was a most clubbable man. His colleagues saw him best when relaxing over a pint at the local pub. He would lead the conversation over a dazzling variety of subjects with a wealth of anecdote and a wit that was polished if sometimes mordant. For those who worked closely with him there will be an abiding memory of unobtrusive support and a quiet steadfast loyalty given without question. Beneath the public man there was the husband and father who rejoiced in family life. He was survived by his wife, one son and one daughter.

A Stuart Mason

[Brit.med.J., 1983, 286, 69; Lancet, 1983, 1, 136; Times, 8 Dec 1982; Memorial Address, All Souls, Langham Place, 2 Feb 1983]

(Volume VII, page 228)

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