Lives of the fellows

James Livingstone Livingstone

b.8 May 1900 d.21 April 1988
MRCS LRCP(1922) MB BS Lond(1923) MRCP(1925) MD(1925) FRCP(1933)

James Livingstone Livingstone was born in Paisley, Scotland. His father, William Livingstone, was a medical practitioner who practised in Seaford, Sussex; his mother Martha, née Hamilton, was the daughter of a bank manager and laird.

He went to school at St Wilfred’s, Seaford, and Worksop College, and entered King’s College, London, in 1917. For 10 months in 1918-19 he was a flight cadet in the RAF. Going on to King’s College Hospital Medical School in 1920 he qualified with the conjoint diploma in 1922 and graduated the following year, proceeding MD in 1925. After house surgeon and house physician appointments at King’s College Hospital, he was appointed medical registrar in 1924. The following year he obtained his membership of the College.

At that time morbid anatomy was still regarded as an essential study for budding physicians and so, for a year, he held a combined post as medical tutor and demonstrator in pathology. He was appointed assistant physician to King’s College Hospital in 1927, and physician in 1934. He developed an interest in respiratory disease and in 1932 was appointed to the staff of the Brompton Hospital. Thereafter, King’s and the Brompton remained the centres of his professional life. He was elected a fellow of King’s College, London, in 1949.

During the second world war, Livingstone served in the Emergency Medical Service as physician to the chest unit at Horton Hospital, Epsom; this was a major centre for thoracic surgery and dealt with many civilian and armed forces casualties. Another professional interest was in insurance medicine; he was for many years chief medical officer in the UK for an Australian insurance society.

Livingstone was an able, conscientious and kind physician. While essentially a clinician, he was active in the application of advances in basic knowledge to medical practice. He wrote on the use of respiratory efficiency tests in asthma in the middle 1930s, and was an advocate of physiotherapy in broncho-pulmonary disease, notably of breathing exercises in asthma, long before these procedures became routine. He was joint author of important early papers on pulmonary eosinophilia and on diffuse interstitial fibrosis of the lungs. His clinical judgement was respected by consultant colleagues, and was so modestly expressed that they did not hesitate to ask his opinion on clinical problems which puzzled them. He was a valued and willing contributor to the teaching of undergraduates at King’s, and of postgraduates at the Brompton.

He took an active part in the affairs of the Asthma Research Council for many years and was a founder member of the Thoracic Society, of which he was president in 1956. In the College he served as councillor from 1945-49, and as censor in 1962-63. He gave the Mitchell Lecture in 1954, on the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.

It is as true of Jimmy Livingstone as it can be of any man that he was well-disposed towards everyone and that everyone liked him. To his juniors, his attitude was informal, almost avuncular; it was not unknown for the discussion after a round at the end of the day, at the Brompton, to be completed in the bar of the pub round the corner. This geniality was balanced by a quietly forceful personality; one knew where one stood with him, and he was constant in his loyalties. In appearance he was rather above average height, with an upright bearing, strong features, and dark hair which he retained into old age. After retirement, he withdrew from London and went to live in the other home he and his wife had established in the place where he had spent his childhood, Seaford. Here, for a time, he continued to do a few locums in chest clinics and in his son’s general practice, but later concentrated on his leisure interests. The chief of these was golf; he was also interested in bird-watching and in fly-fishing, and in athletics in his youth. He continued to play golf, and to be hopeful of improving his game, until shortly before his sudden death at the age of 88.

Jimmy Livingstone was fortunate in a long and happy marriage, starting in 1935 when he married Janet Muriel Rocke, who was at that time registrar in paediatrics at the Royal Free Hospital. They had two sons, both of whom followed their parents into the medical profession and entered general practice, and a daughter who became a physiotherapist. Of their six grandchildren, one graduated in medicine from King’s College Hospital shortly after his grandfather’s death, and another has started medical studies.

JG Scadding

[Lancet, 1988,1,1679; King's Coll.Hosp.Gaz., Summer 1965,44(2), 112-26]

(Volume VIII, page 285)

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