Lives of the fellows

Arthur Leese

b.29 November 1906 d.25 April 1972
BA Cantab(1928) MA(1931) PhD Leeds(1935) MRCS LRCP(1937) MB BChir Cantab(1939) MRCP(1939) FRCP(1957)

Arthur Leese was born at Newcastle-under-Lyme, the son of a grocer. He was an outstanding student at the local school from which he gained entry to Trinity College, Cambridge, having been awarded a State scholarship and also a school leaving scholarship. Although he had originally intended to read medicine, having obtained his BA with first class honours, he came very much under the influence of Gowland Hopkins and J.B.S. Haldane, and for a while he abandoned his medical studies, and his postgraduate work lay in the field of vitamins.

In 1931 he went to work in Leeds with R.D. Passey as research assistant. In the company of Passey and Knox, he worked on the induction of stomach cancer in rats by a nematode. For his work he was awarded the PhD (Leeds).

It was at this time that Professor Matthew Stewart persuaded him to complete his medical studies and he qualified MRCS, LRCP in 1937.

Following medical qualification he was appointed house physician to Professor William MacAdam. He then had the good fortune to be appointed to the post of Nuffield house physician with Professor Witts. Following this appointment he was appointed Nuffield research student at the University of Oxford, and in 1939 he obtained the MB, BChir and in the same year became MRCP.

About 3 months before the outbreak of war he returned to the General Infirmary at Leeds as a research fellow in medicine. Although he tried to enlist for the Army he remained at the General Infirmary and during the early years of the war he acted as Tutor in Medicine. This was an extremely heavy commitment as the Infirmary staff was very depleted, and several generations of medical students must be grateful to him for the quality of his teaching. This work unfortunately virtually ended his research activity.

He enlisted in 1945 and was posted to North Africa, subsequently becoming Lieutenant Colonel in charge of the Medical Division of a Military Hospital. He returned to Leeds on demobilization as Reader in Medicine.

During these early postgraduate years the opportunity for research was limited, but amongst his publications was one on "Nitrogen and Chloride Metabolism in Gastro-Duodenal Haemorrhage", written jointly with D.A.K. Black (Sir Douglas) who became President of the College.

Arthur Leese’s mentors and in particular Matthew Stewart, William MacAdam and L.J. Witts had an extremely high regard for his ability and potential, and one might have expected him to pursue an academic career. This was at the time when there were many outstanding young physicians seeking the newly created Chairs in Medicine. Arthur Leese did not succeed in doing so and from this time on he concentrated on becoming an extremely able consultant physician.

He was appointed to St James’s Hospital, Leeds, in 1950 as consultant physician and at the same time he served at Chapel Allerton and at Otley General Hospital. His opinion on medical problems was very much respected by his consultant colleagues, and several generations of general practitioners in Leeds and District throught very highly of his advice.

Throughout his career he continued to be an enthusiastic and popular undergraduate teacher. His greatest contribution to St James’s Hospital was the part he played in changing it from a somewhat underdeveloped Local Authority Hospital to a Teaching Hospital. He took a large part in committee work. He served for several years on the Hospital Management Committee. He became Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee and until shortly before his death he was Chairman of the Medical Division.

In the last few years of his career he was a member of the Regional Medical Appeal Tribunal and indeed his last appearance at a Tribunal was on the day on which he was admitted to hospital with his final illness.

Arthur Leese married Clara Marguerite Smith, daughter of a solicitor, in 1931. His interests were much wider than medicine. The great outdoors was always his second love. He combined the joy of country rambling with a deep interest in ornithology, and was a member of the Yorkshire Ramblers and the Yorkshire Naturalist Trust. He also had a great interest in archaeology. He took holidays in North Africa, Egypt and Turkey, and many at St James’s will remember his talks, illustrated by slides of the antiquities of these countries.

His most striking virtues were his thoroughness and his complete integrity. He had a strong, but dry sense of humour. He was a very kind man and a delightful professional colleague.

EW Jackson

(Volume VI, page 277)

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