Lives of the fellows

Irwin Colin Isdale

b.29 January 1924 d.22 November 1982
MB ChB NZ(1948) MRCP(1956) MRACP(1957) FRACP(1968) MCCMNZ(1980) FRCP(1981)

Irwin Isdale was born in Ngaruawahia, New Zealand, and educated at King’s College, Auckland, He and his sisters followed in their father’s footsteps at Otago University, where his own two daughters have since, in their turn, qualified in dentistry and medicine respectively. During his early postgraduate years at Christchurch Hospital he met and married his wife, Lynn. He had a natural vocation for medicine, and his outstanding contributions began at an early age, when he was working with EGL Bywaters at Taplow and Hammersmith, and produced definitive papers on the pathology and natural history of the exanthemata of Still’s disease and Henoch-Schönlein’s purpura. Subsequently in 1956 he joined the team at Queen Elizabeth Hospital as rheumatologist and physician; and continued his research despite a heavy service load. He was the clear choice for the post of medical superintendent when this became vacant in 1971, and he continued to lead the team there for the rest of his life.

His active interest in paediatric rheumatology stayed with him, and he wrote extensively on this topic; as well as on adult rheumatism. He was in great demand as a conference speaker and many times shouldered the burden of office in the New Zealand Rheumatism Association, of which he was a past president. He gave generously of his time to the Crippled Children’s Society, and was lately a vice-president of the South East Asia and Pacific Area League against Rheumatism. It is certain that he would still have had much to offer and achieve had he been spared.

Irwin was a keen gardener and an enthusiastic skier. An amateur interest in Egyptology was climaxed by a trip up the Nile, a voyage from which he derived great fascination. No discussion with him ever lasted long without revealing his puckish sense of humour. He was attending a conference in Amsterdam when his final sudden illness came, and he died in London shortly afterwards. He was fortunate that Lynn was with him to provide her warm-hearted support and companionship when his lifetime of good-natured commitment to medicine was ended so far from home.

RE Wright-St Clair

[NZ Med. J., 1983, 96, 64]

(Volume VII, page 297)

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