Lives of the fellows

John Oglethorpe Wakelin Barratt

b.11 May 1862 d.1 December 1956
MB Lond(1889) BS Lond(1890) DSc Lond(1906) LSA(1888) FRCS(1890) MRCP(1892) FRCP(1913)

John Oglethorpe Wakelin Barratt left the memory of a distinguished, upright, stocky figure in old-fashioned dress, with a flowing white moustache on a face with a reserved and detached air. He was born in Birmingham, where his father, Oglethorpe Wakelin Barratt, M.R.C.S., L.S.A., was in general practice.

His post-graduate studies in Gottingen and Munich showed that early flair for research which was to be his abiding interest in a long and fruitful life, for he began then to write to German medical journals on bacteriology, physiology and immunity. Barratt remained to research what the early twentieth century consultant physician was to medicine; he had no single specialism in a wide field. On his return from Germany he became a member of the Physiological Society, and from 1893 to 1896 did experimental work on physiology and pathology at University College. He then turned his attention to neuropathology in the L.C.C, asylums from 1897 to 1899 and in the West Riding Asylum at Wakefield in 1899.

One interest followed another in rather bewildering succession. From B.M.A, research scholar between 1903 and 1905 he became assistant bacteriologist to the Lister Institute in 1905-06 and research worker in the department of cytology and cancer of the University of Liverpool, where he remained until he was appointed senior member of the blackwater fever expedition to Nyasaland under the auspices of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

From 1920 to 1913 he was again in Liverpool as director of the Cancer Research Laboratories, from which he returned to the Lister Institute with a Beit memorial fellowship for research into blood plasma. In the First World War he served from 1914 to 1918 as a captain, R.A.M.C., with the 1st London (City of London) Sanitary Company.

The brusque and rather forbidding manner in which he served as a Past-Master on the Court during his last ten years hid a deep affection and a fierce jealousy for the rights and standards of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries. Admitted by redemption in 1892, he was promoted to the Livery in 1904 and to the Court of Assistants in 1927. He served as Junior Warden in 1932, Senior Warden in 1933, and Master in 1933-4. During all these years one of his hobbies was the study of the Society’s early records of its Hall; his other hobbies were walking, sketching and photography.

Barratt contributed numerous articles on his varied research experiences to medical journals and to the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Among them were valuable contributions on blackwater fever, which he wrote in conjunction with Professor Warrington Yorke as a result of their researches during the expedition to Nyasaland in 1905-06.

In 1913 he married Mary Muter, the daughter of J. H. Gardner, of Stonehouse, Lanarkshire; she had been an assistant bacteriologist at the Lister Institute. He died at the age of ninety-four.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1956, 2, 1433; Lancet, 1956, 2, 1271 (p); Times, 4 Dec. 1956.]

(Volume V, page 30)

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