Lives of the fellows

Thomas Jeeves, Baron Horder of Ashford Horder

b.7 January 1871 d.13 August 1955
Kt(1918) Bt(1923) KCVO(1925) Baron(1933) GCVO(1938) BSc Lond(1893) BS Lond(1896) MB Lond(1898) MD Lond(1899) Hon DCL Durh(1933) Hon MD Melb(1935) Hon MD Adelaide(1935) MRCS LRCP(1896) MRCP(1899) FRCP(1906)

Thomas Jeeves Horder was born at Shaftesbury, Dorset, where his father, Albert Horder, had joined an uncle in the linen and drapery business and married Helen Jeeves, who came from Bampton in Oxfordshire. In 1873 the family moved to Swindon, where Thomas attended the High School until he was fifteen, when, because of suspected lung trouble, he spent two years on his uncle’s farms in Wiltshire. He was an ardent student of general literature, but with no special aim until he was persuaded by the family practitioner, Dr Maclean, to study medicine. To prepare for the entrance examination to London University he took a correspondence course organised by a Mr Briggs, of Red Lion Square; his biology tutor was H. G. Wells.

In 1891 he won an entrance scholarship to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where he gained the junior and senior scholarships in anatomy and physiology, and the Brackenbury and Lawrence scholarships. The first of his junior posts was with Samuel Gee; they were followed by appointments to the staffs of the Great Northern, the Royal Cancer and the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospitals between 1900 and 1908.

In 1912 he began his long association with his parent hospital as assistant physician, becoming full physician in 1921, and consulting physician and governor on his retirement under the age limit in 1936. His Royal appointments were Physician-in-Ordinary to Edward, Prince of Wales, Physician-in-Ordinary to George Vi and Extra Physician to Elizabeth II.

In the First World War he served in the R.A.M.C, at the 1st London General Hospital and at a base hospital at Abbeville, and in the Second was chairman of the Committee on the Use of Public Air-Raid Shelters, and personal adviser to Lord Woolton, for whom he worked out a food policy with Sir Jack Drummond.

Between the Wars he had an extensive practice, but found time for active membership of many medical societies and committees, such as the Association of Physicians, the Pathological Society, the Empire Rheumatism Council, the Harveian Society and the Medical Society of London; of the last two he was president.

At the College he was examiner (1930-32), Councillor (1931-2), Censor (1932, 1933 and 1936), Lumleian lecturer (1936) and Harveian orator (1940); but owing to the War his oration was not delivered. In the British Medical Association he was a member of the Representative Body (1945-51), of the Council (1948-51), and of the Committee which negotiated the acceptance of the National Health Service (1947-8).

Such services deserved his many honours, but the one he coveted most, the Presidency of the College, was denied him. Many reasons have been given. Some thought his early frank and caustic criticism of his seniors brought an unpopularity that became active hostility when he diagnosed that the apparent glycosuria of King Edward VII in 1910 was but the salicylates in his patent medicine for rheumatism; others that his dislike of the National Health Service shown in his presidency of the Fellowship for Freedom in Medicine would bring trouble between the College and the Government; still others that his passion for founding societies on every aspect of life from conception to cremation had another explanation than his own, that medicine must be a social science.

Yet ‘Tommy’, as he was to his friends, was certainly the greatest clinician of his day; in the direct tradition of Sydenham, Heberden, Addison, Bright and Gee, he brought to the bedside an astounding knowledge of the value of every ancillary aid to diagnosis, founded on vast experience and a balanced judgment that made it acceptable to the patient as well as to his general practitioner. His short, squat figure exuded wisdom and humanity; his penetrating eye saw through the non-essentials in history and treatment, and he had contempt for pretension and mystery.

His teaching, founded on the necessity of a complete systematic examination and a knowledge of the uses and limitations of bedside consultation, was as simple and forthright as his writings. His one recreation was gardening, which he enjoyed at The Gables at Hemsby, Norfolk, from 1912, and then at Ashford Chase, near Alton, with its one hundred and twenty acres, from 1924.

In 1902 he married Geraldine Rose, daughter of Arthur Doggett, a farmer of Newsham Market, near Baldock. She had been a nurse at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. They had one son and two daughters, one of whom married Edward Cullinan, a Fellow of the College and a physician to St. Bartholomew’s.

Richard R Trail

[Brit. Heart J., 1956, 18, 123-5 (p); Brit.med.J., 1955, 2, 479, 493-7 (p), 565-6, 621, 624, 684, 795; Bull. Fellowship Freedom Med., 1963, no. 56, 2-8 (p); J. Amer. med. Ass., 1955, 159, 55, 506; Lancet, 1955, 2, 397-400 (p), 514; Nature (Lond), 1955, 176, 489; Practitioner (Lond), 1963, 190, 532-7 (p); St Bart’s Hosp.J., 1957, 61, 247-50; Times, 14, 20, 28 Aug. 1955; M. Horder. The Little genius: a memoir of the first Lord Horder. London, 1966 (p). Bronze, by Olaff de Wet, c. 1954-5.]

(Volume V, page 198)

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