Lives of the fellows

Bernard Hart

b.24 March 1879 d.16 March 1966
CBE(1945) MRCS LRCP(1903) MB Lond(1904) MD(1912) MRCP(1921) FRCP(1925)

Bernard Hart was born in London into a family noted for expert knowledge of the history and construction of the violin. He was educated at University College School, Hampstead, and University College London and received his medical training at University College Hospital where he qualified with the Conjoint diploma in 1903, graduating MB in 1904 and proceeding to MD in 1912. His own tendencies, evident even in his boyhood at University College School, were towards philosophy but he eventually decided to study medicine. After qualifying, he held house appointments at the East London Hospital for Children, and then spent some time pursuing postgraduate study in Paris and Zurich, acquainting himself with the main currents of psychiatric opinion in Europe - a subject which he was to make his specialty. On return to England he worked as assistant medical officer at the Hertfordshire County Asylum, Hill End, St. Albans, and at Long Grove Asylum, Epsom. In 1913 he was appointed the first physician for psychological medicine at University College Hospital but his work ws almost immediately interrupted by war service. He joined the RAMC, holding the rank of major, and was lecturer in psychopathology at Maghull Military Hospital, physician to the Special Hospital for Officers at Palace Green, and consultant in mental diseases to military hospitals in London. On demobilization he returned to University College Hospital and also joined the staff of the National Hospital, Queen Square, and of the Maudsley Hospital. He lectured in his subject both at UCH and at Maudsley.

He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1925, serving on the Council from 1939 to 1941. In 1926 he became president of the medical section of the British Psychological Society, and was also president of the section of psychiatry of the Royal Society of Medicine. At the annual meeting of the British Medical Association in 1928 and 1932 he was vice-president of the section of mental diseases and neurology, and in 1935 vice-president of the section of neurology and psychological medicine. In 1926 he gave the Goulstonian Lecture on 'The Development of Psychopathology and its Place in Medicine’ which was published in book form in 1927 together with three papers on cognate subjects. His hospital work and extensive private practice took up so much of his time that his publications were necessarily few. Among his outstanding contributions were his papers on ‘A Philosophy of Psychiatry’ published in 1908, and The Conception of the Subconscious’, in 1910, which introduced the works of Janet, Freud and Jung to the English reader and set them in a philosophical framework. Perhaps his best known work - a little classic - is his book Psychology of Insanity which first appeared in 1912. The fact that this book was republished in the 1960s as a paperback, a status symbol he would have found odd, is evidence of its value today.

During the second world war he was chief adviser on psychiatric matters to the Emergency Medical Service, working in close partnership with Gordon Holmes. He was appointed CBE in 1945 in recognition of this work. Two years later he retired and went to live at Eastbourne.

Hart was always a friendly and cheerful colleague and sympathetic and human in his clinical work. He had no wish to become involved in public affairs, seeking his diversions in mountaineering and skiing. After his retirement he devoted himself to the study of history, reading extensively about the Peloponnesian War and about his favourite Margaret of Navarre. In these latter years his conversation was a delightful mixture of recollections, historical discussion, shrewd - faintly disillusioned - comment on the passing scene, and inquiry into the modern developments in psychiatry. Until the last two or three years of his life he continued to see a few patients who depended on him for psychological support.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[, 1966, 1, 806; Lancet, 1966, 1, 720; Times, 17 Mar 1966; Eastbourne Herald Chronicle, 19 Mar 1966]

(Volume VI, page 226)

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