Lives of the fellows

William Alexander Lister

b.28 January 1897 d.21 October 1981
TD(1945) MRCS LRCP(1923) MRCP(1925) MB Bchir Cantab(1926) MD(1935) FRCP(1938)

William Lister was the son of Sir William Lister and a great nephew of Lord Lister. He was educated at Winchester College, leaving in 1915 to serve in the first world war. He was wounded in the trenches, losing an eye. On demobilization in 1919 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and the London Hospital, where he qualified in 1923. While holding resident appointments there he obtained the MRCP in 1925, and MB BChir in 1926. He was then appointed physician to the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital, Plymouth.

Despite the loss of an eye, his deep sense of patriotism induced him to join the Territorial Army in 1930, until it was disbanded in 1939. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration.

In 1939 he formed, commanded and trained 129 Field Ambulance to a high degree of efficiency. On being posted overseas he commanded the medical division of No 6 General Hospital in Egypt and later he became commanding officer of I General Hospital at Secunderabad. He retired with the rank of honorary colonel.

He returned to a busy consultant practice in Plymouth, where he helped to initiate the NHS. For many years he was a member of the Hospital Management Committee. He was a magistrate from 1947. He was a founder member of the West Country Physicians Club.

‘Billy’ Lister was a man of great charm and character. He was an enthusiast, with catholic interests both within and outside medicine. His keen eye was first to note the natural history of the strawberry naevus and its tendency to spontaneous resolution. He was the embodiment of the wise and widely experienced consultant. He was disturbed by many aspects of the NHS, particularly the multiplication of consultants and consequent narrowing of his consultant field. He became greatly interested in chest diseases, especially the pathology of emphysema, publishing many articles on the subject until well after his retirement in 1962.

In retirement he became a painter, a gardener, a fisherman and a dog trainer. As churchwarden, he characteristically took over and transformed the churchyard of the village of his adoption. He kept his enthusiasm to the end.

In 1929 he married Esther Cecily Parsons of Bristol. They had two sons and two daughters.

GR Steed

[Brit.med.J., 1981, 283, 1474; 284, 62]

(Volume VII, page 338)

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