Lives of the fellows

Arthur John Jex-Blake

b.31 July 1873 d.16 August 1957
MA Oxon(1901) BM BCh Oxon(1901) DM Oxon(1913) MRCP(1905) FRCP(1912)

Arthur John Jex-Blake came of a distinguished family of scholars. His father, the Very Rev. Thomas William Jex-Blake, D.D., had been headmaster of Rugby before he became dean of Wells, which office he held from 1891 to 1910. His mother was Henrietta, daughter of John Cordery, of Hampstead. One of Arthur’s two sisters was principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford; the other was mistress of Girton, Cambridge. His aunt, the well-known Sophia Jex-Blake, was one of the chief figures in the early movement to open the medical profession to women in the days when prejudice against them ran high.

Arthur was educated at Eton, whence he went to Oxford as a demy of Magdalen College, and, after the fashion of so many consultants of his generation, he read the classics, taking second class honours in classical moderations in 1894. He then transferred his attention to the school of natural science, taking first class honours in chemistry. On coming down he entered as a University scholar at St. George’s Hospital, where he gained the Brackenbury prize and the Treasurer’s prize.

In 1902 he was awarded a Radcliffe travelling fellowship, visiting Vienna, Copenhagen and Baltimore. On his return to London he was appointed to the staff of the Victoria Hospital for Children, Tite Street; a little later he became assistant physician to St. George’s, and also to the Brompton Hospital. In 1913 he gave the Goulstonian lectures.

During the First World War he served as a major in the R.A.M.C. (T) in France and on his return became full physician to St. George’s, but did not continue for long as a consultant. In 1920 he married Lady Muriel Herbert, daughter of the fourteenth Earl of Pembroke, having known her and worked with her in Boulogne during the war. He resigned all his London appointments and left England with his bride for Kenya, where the remainder of his life was passed. Lady Muriel died in 1951; there was one daughter of the marriage.

Jex-Blake was unquestionably one of the outstanding figures of our profession, distinguished not so much for any unusual quality as a diagnostician or a bedside clinical teacher, as for his immense learning in a great variety of subjects, his absolute integrity of purpose and his devotion to the highest ethical standards. He was indeed the beloved physician. The writer of this memoir is indebted to him for much help and kindness, and will always remember him with admiration and with affection.

Of Jex-Blake’s literary contributions one of the most exquisite is the letter, now in the College library, which he wrote, in admirable Latin prose, at the close of the 1914-18 War. It marked the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the College and came from the sixteen Fellows who served with the Army in France.

Richard R Trail

[, 1957, 2, 530; Central Somerset Gazette, 23 Aug. 1957; E. Afr. med. J., 1957, 34, 560-61; East Africa & Rhodesia (Lond.), 5 Sept. 1957; Lancet, 1957, 2, 393; Times, 19, 21 Aug. 1957.]

(Volume V, page 215)

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