Lives of the fellows

Allan George Seaverns Grimble

b.8 March 1920 d.9 March 1984
MB BS Lond(1945) MD(1950) MRCP(1953) FRCP(1972)

Allan Grimble was born in Hong Kong, where his father Eric Norton Grimble was a broker. He was educated at Cottesmore Preparatory School and at Shrewsbury, before entering the medical school at St Mary’s Hospital. Shortly after beginning his medical studies he took six months off work to attend art school. While at St Mary’s he became intensely interested in the sea and sailing, and later in his undergraduate career he took another six months off work to go to sea with the Scottish fishing fleet.

He was an impressive figure: tall, upright, with a weatherbeaten complexion and blue eyes, and even at the age of 64 his dark brown hair was scarcely touched with grey.

In the obituary notices in the BMJ and Guy's Gazette he was described as 'a very private man'. And in a list he made of his interests and hobbies he mentions offshore sailing, painting and portraiture, and ‘natural quiet’; perhaps this last may give some hint of his desire for privacy. Once, when asked for the name of his yacht by one of his staff, who was also a sailor, he smiled - but made no reply.

In his own field of genital medicine he wrote some excellent papers on the prognosis in cardiovascular syphilis, and mycoplasma urethitis, with others on immunology and epidemiology. Just before his death he had completed a very scholarly work entitled Tradition, science and medicine: towards a metaphysical paradigm for medicine, and the breadth of knowledge displayed is most impressive. In addition to a consideration of homoeopathy, faith healing and nutrition, he dealt with the traditional methods of medicine in Tibetan, Hindu Vedic, Chinese, Egyptian, Islamic, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Polynesian and American Indian cultures. This helps to explain some of his professional quirks. The term venereology was anathema to him: ‘Any specialty centered on an infection is doomed to early extinction; I wish I could convince my colleagues of this fact.’

In the Lloyd clinic every new patient had to have a complete physical examination. No patient could be referred to another consultant without all reasonable investigations being performed and a careful study of the results. Another of his foibles was that he insisted that no member of staff must make an internal examination of a woman while seated, an edict that some of the older assistants who were of less athletic build than their chief found somewhat trying. He also refused to employ any professional contact tracers, holding that this was not only to abdicate the duty of a doctor to his patients and to the public health but also that it subjected the patients to an unjustifiable invasion of their privacy.

As a chief he was inspiring and helpful, but sharply critical of any slackness. It is, I think, a pity that no publisher has yet seen fit to produce his last work.

He married Phyllis Muriel Bournes in 1946 and there was one child of the marriage.

FJ Aumonier
Sir Gordon Wolstenhome

[Brit.med.J., 1984,289,563; Guy's Hosp. Gaz., May 1984,145]

(Volume VIII, page 199)

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