Lives of the fellows

Frederick Martin Lipscomb

b.26 January 1887 d.6 August 1970
OBE(1945) MRCS LRCP(1912) MRCP(1930) FRCP(1943)

Martin Lipscomb was born at Brighstone, Isle of Wight, the son of Frederick Bell Lipscomb, a minister of religion, and Ethel, daughter of Thomas Jennings White, a solicitor. He was educated at Bedford School and King’s College Hospital, where he took the Conjoint diploma in 1912. Following some time spent in general practice he was gazetted as a Lieutenant RAMC and mobilised in November 1914, serving in India and Mesopotamia during the first world war and until 1921.

In 1923 he attended the Senior Officers’ Course at the Royal Army Medical College and qualified as a specialist in medicine. He returned to India in 1924, and, apart from short breaks in England in 1929-32, when he gained the MRCP, and in 1938-39, he remained there until 1941. During this period in India he held appointments as medical specialist and commanding officer of the British Military Hospital, Multan. From 1941 he was consultant physician to the Forces in Persia and Iraq.

During 1944-45, while serving with 115 General Hospital in North-West Europe, he helped in relief work at the notorious concentration camp at Belsen. Immediately after the second world war he returned to India as consultant physician at General Headquarters, reaching the rank of Brigadier in 1942, and being appointed OBE in 1945. In 1948 he gained the Leishman Memorial Prize and, after a record of 25 years overseas out of 32 years’ service, retired from active duties.

Martin Lipscomb was one of the regular Army physicians who was regarded as of consultant status between the two world wars. He was a humble, quiet, courteous man, with a delightful sense of humour, and with a vast knowledge and experience in two rather unrelated fields of medicine — geriatrics and tropical diseases. He had done some general practice after qualifying in the two years before 1914 and became interested in the problems and difficulties of managing degenerative diseases in the elderly in their homes. This illustrates the humanity and philosophy of the man, that as a young doctor aged 25 years he should concentrate on a subject commonly neglected in those days. On his return to England in 1929 he was appointed deputy surgeon to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. At that time this post was a perquisite of young RAMC regulars, allowing leisure for reading and access to the London teaching hospitals. In addition to gaining his higher qualification he was again able to study, under ideal conditions, clinical problems of the elderly which had fascinated him before the war. The result of this was his textbook Diseases of Old Age, published in 1932, which was a remarkable effort for a regular army physician. He was an early member of the British Geriatric Society, and for a time chairman of the executive committee.

He was also a distinguished tropical physician whose service and opinions were widely appreciated and of great value to the Army. His main work in this field was in studying and recording, with Brigadier H.B.F. Dixon, all the known cases of cysticercosis in this country. This combined work, published as an MRC Special Report in 1961, is the most comprehensive and authoritative monograph on the subject in the English, and possibly in any, language.

After his retirement from active duties in the Army he was reemployed as physician and surgeon, Royal Hospital, Chelsea from 1949 to his final retirement in 1956. His grave, quiet, unhurried manner made him the confidant and friend of those old warriors who were his patients.

On 1 November 1913 he married Dorothy Octavia, the daughter of William Wynn Robinson, a minister of religion; they had three children, one son and two daughters. His cousin John Millman Lipscomb is a Fellow of the College. He died at the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot, aged eighty three.

Sir James Baird

[Lancet, 2, 428 & 531; AMS Magazine, 1970, 24, 149-50]

(Volume VI, page 295)

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