Lives of the fellows

Frederick Roland George Heaf

b.21 June 1894 d.4 February 1973
CMG(1957) BA Cantab(1916) MRCS LRCP(1918) MB BChir(1920) MD(1923) MRCP(1941) MA(1943) FRCP(1946)

Frederick Roland George Heaf was born on 21 June 1894 at Desborough, Northants, the son of Julius Heaf, a maker of scientific instruments, and Alice Beavon. He was educated at Oundle and obtained a Foundation Scholarship to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he began his undergraduate career by reading geology. After the first year, he decided to enter the medical profession and obtained a BA in Natural Sciences in 1916. The first world war interrupted his medical studies when, as a professed Quaker, he served in France with an ambulance unit of the Society of Friends. He resumed his medical studies in 1918 at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, qualifying that same year. In 1920 he obtained his MB BChir, Cantab, and his MD, Cantab, in 1923. After holding various house appointments at St Thomas’s and the Brompton hospitals, he turned his attention exclusively to tuberculosis. He held one or two junior posts in this field and was then appointed medical superintendent first of Warwick Sanatorium and later of Colindale Hospital. This was in the 1930s when the treatment of tuberculosis was becoming much more active, and Colindale was in the forefront in applying new methods. In 1936 he became principal assistant medical officer at the London County Council central office, and senior medical officer in the public health department in 1944; during this time he was immediately responsible for the administration of the LCC’s scheme for the treatment of tuberculosis. He was also adviser on tuberculosis to the Ministry of Health, the Scottish Health Department, and the Colonial Office. He was appointed David Davies professor of tuberculosis at the Welsh National School of Medicine, University of Wales, in 1949 and held this post until his retirement as emeritus professor in 1961.

Heaf's interest in tuberculosis, which spanned a period of almost 50 years, was widely cast but it is possible to discern three distinct phases. Early in his career as a sanatorium superintendent he published papers on the use of salts of gold and other heavy metals in treatment, on tuberculous laryngitis, and on the artificial pneumothorax. He relinquished active clinical work on going to County Hall and turned his attention to prevention, epidemiology and rehabilitation. Of necessity, his work became administrative and many of his friends were saddened at the loss of such a good clinician, but in reality the change was a gain: it widened immeasurably the field in which his other talents could be deployed. His immense energy and his gift for getting on with people were already known, but his skill in administration, his clear sightedness, and the rapidity with which he could formulate plans and translate them into action had only been suspected before his appointment to the LCC. He often visited the LCC sanatoria and other hospitals to which the Council sent patients and became very involved in the work at Preston Hall and at Papworth.

His experience at County Hall led to his appointment as adviser in tuberculosis to the Colonial Office and he travelled all over the world visiting Colonies and helping them with their problems which at once became his, and much of his work in the last 20 years of his life was devoted to guiding the antituberculosis measures in these territories. Once again, his approachability and friendliness were apparent, and there must be hundreds of people in all walks of life who perhaps met him only once yet remember him vividly.

His appointment as professor of tuberculosis at the University of Wales was a stroke of genius. The course which he conducted in Cardiff attracted a steady stream of young graduates from overseas for whom he and his wife, Madeleine, kept open house. He became not only their mentor, but their friend. His work in the international sphere was further enhanced by his selection as co-ordinator of the scientific and technical committees of the International Union against Tuberculosis. Honours came to him from overseas: he was elected a member of the Medical Society of Sweden, the Salonika Medical Association, and the Tuberculosis Association of Turkey.

In 1957 he was created CMG for his work on tuberculosis in the developing countries. He published a large number of papers on various aspects of tuberculosis and was joint author of Rehabilitation of the Tuberculous and Recent Advances in Respiratory Tuberculosis, and in 1957 he edited a Symposium of Tuberculosis which was deservedly popular. To most of the world he will be best known for his introduction of the multiple-puncture tuberculin (Heaf) test.

He married Madeleine Denison in 1920 and her death in 1966 ended a supremely happy partnership. After he left Wales and moved to live at Freeland, near Oxford, he pursued increasingly his early interest in geology and archeology. He continued to live a very active life, meeting his friends, visiting Preston Hall, and entertaining people at his bungalow. He was a natural host, and became an excellent cook; most weeks he gave two or three lunch or dinner parties, all prepared and served by himself. And he took part in and enlivened various literary and philosophical societies in Oxford. He had two sons, one of whom is a consulting physician, and a daughter who is also a doctor.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1973, 1, 557; Brit.med.J., 1973, 1, 424-5; Lancet, 1973, 1, 383-4]

(Volume VI, page 229)

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