Lives of the fellows

Charles Brehmer Heald

b.3 December 1882 d.9 February 1974
CBE MRCS LRCP(1909) MB BChir Cantab(1910) MA MD(1913) MRCP(1921) FRCP(1936)

Charles Brehmer Heald was born at Bowden, Cheshire, the son of Walter Heald, who was connected with the Argentine railways, and his wife Emily Isabel, daughter of Charles Frederick Krabbe, a landowner. He was educated at Tunbridge School and Gonville and Caius, Cambridge, undertaking his clinical studies at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, where he graduated MB BChir in 1910. He became house physician to Sir Norman Moore, then President of this College, later being appointed resident medical officer at the Royal Free Hospital. After completing his time at the Royal Free he went abroad for postgraduate study at Freiburg-im-Breisgau under Professor Aschoff, and at the Royal Institutet, Stockholm, returning to take up an appointment in the public health service under Sir George Newman, Chief Medical Officer to the Board of Education.

At the outbreak of the first world war, Charles Heald joined the Royal Navy as medical officer in the battleship Conqueror. In 1915 he transferred to the RAMC as a result of an appeal by the Director-General of the AMS for medical men with Territorial experience to assist in the training of field ambulance units. He was appointed Captain, temporary acting Lieutenant-Colonel, in charge of the 92nd Field Ambulance. He later found himself posted as the first medical officer to an active service flying unit in the field, the 2nd Brigade RFC. This appointment was the beginning of a 30 year uninterrupted connection with the RFC, later the RAF, and he took his pilot’s wings. He was one of the original members of the first RFC Special Medical Board.

In 1920 he was appointed Chief Medical Adviser to Civil Aviation, and in this post he helped to establish standards of fitness for pilots. He achieved wide acceptance of these standards through his chairmanship of the Medical Sub-Committee of the International Convention of Air Navigation. He took his MRCP in 1921 and left the world of flying for an appointment as consulting physician to the Royal Free Hospital, his particular interest being in physical medicine and rheumatology. During his twenty-six years on the staff he developed a great variety of techniques in electrotherapeutics, in which he took a keen interest. He was a foundation member of the British Red Cross Clinic for Rheumatism, and in 1945-46 he founded the first bedded unit dedicated to the extensive treatment of all forms of arthritis in direct association with a London teaching hospital. It was transferred from its original site in the country to become an integral part of the parent hospital, and was instrumental in obtaining recognition of rheumatology as a specialised subject.

Among his publications were Injuries in Sport and The Genesis of Aviation Medicine. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1936.

In 1915 he married Edith Hildegarde, daughter of Arthur Mason, a general practitioner, and they had three daughters. He was a large, powerful, well-built man and survived a fractured neck sustained in an air crash during his RFC service in 1916. A keen oarsman, he rowed as a student for Caius College, where the eight included Sir Harold Gillies. He was an outstanding product of the old school of doctors, with a broad general education and a wide variety of interests. In his retirement he remained extremely active both physically and mentally. He organized a rheumatism centre in the Cotswolds which was subsequently taken over by the NHS. In his 90th year he was still actively engaged in gardening and cabinet making.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Times, 12 Feb 1974; Brit.med.J., 1974, 1, 398]

(Volume VI, page 231)

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