Lives of the fellows

George Dickinson Hadley

b.30 June 1908 d.14 August 1984
MRCS LRCP( 1934) MB BChir Cantab(1934) MRCP(1936) MD(1939) FRCP(1947)

George Hadley (Dickin, at home) was the son of Laurence Hadley, editor of the Birmingham Post. To him he owed the nucleus of his collection of books on angling and his bibliophily, as well as his civic sense and a close circle of friends from his youth in Birmingham. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Birmingham, and Clare College, Cambridge, where he obtained first class honours in natural sciences. He qualified at the Middlesex Hospital, and was house physician to Charles Lakin [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.272] and house surgeon to Gordon Gordon-Taylor, whose clinical style he had clearly admired. From 1936-38 he became an Elmore research student at Cambridge and developed his lifelong interest in peptic ulcer. He was then registrar to Donald Hunter [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.288] at the London Hospital. He joined the RAMC in 1939 and was captured at Dunkirk. While a prisoner he helped to start a camp orchestra, with instruments provided by the Red Cross. He was himself a ‘cellist of professional standard. The same camp achieved fame from some of the earliest continuous field observations on nesting brids. The corporate spirit which directed such activities is well caught in John Buxton’s monograph The Redstart in the New Naturalist series.

Hadley became resident medical officer at the Middlesex Hospital directly after demobilization and built into the post an authority and breadth of responsibility for which his successors were grateful. After a year he was appointed assistant physician, and was later also physician, at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital, Taplow. He was not a prolific writer and he is best remembered for his teaching, which had the same concise quality as that of his contemporaries Richard Asher [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.16] and Horace Joules [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.307]. His special interest was in endoscopy: he used the Hermon Taylor and Schindler instruments from 1949; himself brought back from Japan the first gastrocamera in 1963, and went on to be a pioneer of fibreoptic endoscopy. He was a firm treasurer of the British Society of Gastroenterology in its early and more intimate days.

The man was much more complex than this professional biography indicates. He returned from the war intensely shy and often monosyllabic, and seemed at ease only with patients (unfailingly), and with small groups of people whom he knew well. His capacity to make a few very close friendships was characteristic of him. After about 1960 he mellowed, only to be struck by serious illness in the last five years of his professional life, which renewed his isolation. His reputation for epigrammatic description, verbal and written, was never diluted by professional small talk. He was distinctly impressionistic about dates and commitments. Perhaps as a consequence of his experience in the war, his clear political vision was not matched by any public commitment to change, at a time (the years immediately before the first reorganization of the National Health Service) when such vision was at a premium.

His private life was very happy and full. His wife Jean, née Stewart, was a professional viola player, and his three daughters all played instruments at home and abroad. The Hadleys were the friends of many of the musicians of their time: Vaughan Williams was his patient and confidant. They lived in George Street, in a tall house full of books, with two Volkswagen Beetles at the door.

PAJ Ball

[Brit.med.J., 1984,289,1082; Lancet, 1984,2,587; The Times, 1 Sept 1984; Middx.Hosp.J., l974]

(Volume VIII, page 203)

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