Lives of the fellows

Leonard Haydn Howells

b.23 October 1906 d.12 February 1970
DL Glam(1963) BSc Wales(1927) MRCS LRCP(1930) BS Lond(1931) MRCP(1932) MD(1934) FRCP(1949)

Leonard Howells was born in Neath, Glamorgan, the son of Phillip Howells, a Councillor and Mayor of the town, and of Mary Evans, who was born in Somerset. From Cowbridge Grammar School and the University of Wales, where he gained the BSc with distinction in physiology, he went to the London Hospital Medical College in 1927. He was one of the most brilliant students of his day, obtaining the Anderson Prize in medicine, surgical dressers’ prize, Letheby prize in chemical pathology, surgery prize, Sutton prize in pathology, Andrew Clark prize in pathology and clinical medicine and the prize in obstetrics and gynaecology. He was a prominent member of the London Hospital Rugby XV and maintained his interest in this sport until his death; indeed during his last year he was President of the Cardiff Medical Students’ Rugby Club.

He qualified from the London Hospital in 1930 with the Conjoint Diploma and in the following year graduated MB BS with honours and gained a distinction in medicine. After holding the most sought after house appointments at the London Hospital, he became senior medical registrar in 1932 until his appointment as honorary Physician to the Cardiff Royal Infirmary in 1935.

He had a distinguished career as Colonel in the RAMC 1939-1945 and was mentioned in despatches. While in Gibraltar he was appointed consultant physician to the Colonial Hospital and physician to the Governor. After his demobilisation he became honorary Colonel of the 3rd Western General Hospital (TA).

An astute general physician of exceptional merit, Leonard Howells became interested in diabetes and established diabetic clinics in the hospitals and in the city of Cardiff. He published many papers relating to this disease and in particular reported a four year clinical study of the treatment of diabetes with chlorpropamide and tolbutamide (Diabetes, 1966, 15, 269). One of his other interests was in therapeutics, and his paper on the biological actions and therapeutic application of nitrogen mustard was one of the outstanding contributions of the time (Quart. Jl. Med., 1954, 23, 231). The problems of poisoning intrigued him greatly. At the request of the Ministry of Health he established the Poisons Information Bureau in Cardiff, and he organized the emergency treatment of poisoning in the city. He fully reported five cases of acute cadmium fume poisoning - a rare disorder (Brit. Jl. Indust. Med. 1966, 23, 292).

Leonard Howells excelled as a teacher and was able to graft the practitioner’s art on to the main trunk of the fundamental sciences, to the lasting benefit of his pupils. A multitude of students from the Welsh National School of Medicine during a span of 34 years have reason to be grateful to him for all that he taught them. His clear thinking, scrupulous fairness and critical appraisal of a situation made him the outstanding member of any committee in the United Cardiff Hospitals. He always fought valiantly for a principle which he considered to be right. He was a member of the Board of Governors of the United Cardiff Hospitals for 15 years and for some time was a member of the Senate of the Welsh National School of Medicine and of the Council of Governors of the University of South Wales and Monmouthshire. In 1963 he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Glamorgan, the only member of the medical profession to be honoured in this way.

In 1935 he married Margaret Parkinson, the daughter of John Allen Parkinson, CBE, JP, MP, and had one son David, a solicitor.

He died suddenly at his home in Cardiff from a coronary occlusion.

Byron Evans

[Brit.med.J., 1970, 1, 572; Lancet, 1970, 1, 478]

(Volume VI, page 250)

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