Lives of the fellows

John Thornton Ingram

b.4 March 1899 d.23 June 1972
MB BS Lond(1924) MD(1926) MRCP(1926) FRCP(1936)

John Ingram was born in Exeter, the son of Albert James Ingram, a schoolmaster there. His mother was Florence Annie Bailey, the daughter of John Thornton Bailey, a tradesman of Plymouth. John Ingram went to Hele’s school and later University College, Exeter. His medical training was interrupted by war service and he joined the Artist’s Rifles in 1918 with the rank of second lieutenant. He resumed his studies in 1919 at the London Hospital, qualifying in 1924. At this hospital he held successively the posts of house physician to the Skin Department, clinical assistant in the Skin and Light Department and finally first assistant in the Skin Department from August 1926 to January 1928 under Sequeira. He was then appointed physician in charge of the newly formed Skin Department at the General Infirmary, Leeds, where he remained until he went to Newcastle as Professor of Dermatology in 1959.

Ingram was convinced that dermatology was one of the most important branches of medicine and should have an equal status both in hospital accommodation and medical education with other medical subjects. He rapidly established a first class department at Leeds where students were given a thorough grounding in dermatology, and responded by flocking to his out-patient teachings. He insisted on skins having a special place in the final examination with an external examiner, the only one in England. Within 12 years he had planned and seen built a skin department second to none in the country. Here he developed what became known as the ‘Ingram treatment’ for psoriasis; this consisted of daily artificial sunlight and tar baths together with a special dithranol paste applied exactly to the lesions after which the patient was covered with a stockinet suit so that he could carry on with his normal occupation. His department attracted many Commonwealth postgraduates, and also other overseas visitors.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Ingram went into the army with the rank of colonel and was sent to France as adviser in skin diseases to the BEF. Here he had some differences of opinion with the authorities, as he believed that dermatology should be separated from venereology and should have its own adviser at the War Office; he also argued that skin patients should be under the care of women nurses and not male orderlies as in the VD sections. Events overtook the solution of these problems and after Dunkirk he returned to civilian life, though later his ideas were implemented in the Army.

In 1958 he was asked to advise on the formation of a whole time Chair in Dermatology at Durham (later Newcastle) University. When it was eventually created, no suitable candidate could be found and so he was invited to accept the post, and he moved to Newcastle in 1959, where he remained till he retired in 1964. During these years he was very active on both local hospital and national committees. He was Chairman of the Medical Faculty of the Leeds Infirmary from 1949 to 1952, Chairman of the Leeds Division of the BMA from 1941 to 1944, elected to the GMC in 1951, and on the Council of the RCP from 1952 to 1954. He also served on several MRC committees and was on the Council of the Royal Medical Foundation of Epsom College. He was Treasurer of the BAD for many years and President in 1947, and of the Dermatological section of the RSM in 1957. He was Watson Smith lecturer in 1954, and lectured abroad in Australia and New Zealand and at the American Academy of Dermatology. He was an honorary member of the New York Dermatological Society and numerous other foreign societies. His publications included two editions of Sequeira’s Diseases of the Skin (with R.T. Brain), Clinical Dermatology (1969) and Nursing Care of the Patient with Skin Disease (1970), as well as many articles on dermatological subjects, especially psoriasis.

John Ingram was a brilliant teacher inspiring students and exacting the highest standard of observation and recording from his juniors. He constantly stressed the integration of dermatology with general medicine and used skin conditions to illustrate general medical principles. He was essentially an observer and less interested in academic research and inclined to back his clinical judgement against laboratory findings.

His great hero was Jonathan Hutchinson; he had a collection of papers and various records associated with Hutchinson, and wrote a monograph about him. His hobbies included water colour painting, in which he was able to indulge more fully when he retired in 1965 to Wing in Buckingham. Unfortunately, this retirement was marred by ill-health so that he was unable fully to play the role of elder statesman which he should have done by right.

In 1927 he married Lucy, daughter of John Taylor Graham, a businessman in Carlisle. They had one daughter Pamela. Lucy Ingram died in 1957, and in 1959 he married Kathleen Raven, daughter of Frederick William Raven of Wingrave, Bucks; she had been matron of the General Infirmary, Leeds, and later became Chief Nursing Officer of the Department of Health and Social Security where her services were recognised by the award of the DBE.

Frank F Hellier

[Brit.med.J., 1972, 3, 54,119, 357; Lancet, 1972, 2,93; Times, 28 June 1972,12 Sept, 1972; Evening Chronicle, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 24 June 1972; Beds & Bucks Observer, 27 June 1972; Shield Gazette, 7 Oct 1972]

(Volume VI, page 252)

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