Lives of the fellows

Charles Titterton Maitland

b.6 July 1894 d.26 September 1984
CBE BSc Lond(1915) MRCS LRCP(1917) MB BS(1920) MD(1921) DPH(1921) DTM&H(1921) MRCP(1922) FRCP(1936) MFCM(1974)

Charles Maitland died, aged 90, at his home at Gerrards Cross where he had lived for more than half a century. He was the son of missionaries and had spent part of his youth with them in China, where he later did some medical work of which he seldom spoke. He was closely involved with the work of his church, to the point of participation as a chorister into his late sixties. His religion strongly influenced his work throughout his life.

He received his medical education at Bart’s, whence he qualified in 1917. His bent was strongly towards preventive medicine and he became MOH of the Metropolitan Borough of Stoke Newington. He was recruited by George Newman, later Sir George, [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV, p.559] to the Ministry of Health and achieved his first promotion there, exceptionally for that time, within ten years. He was Isabella Cameron’s deputy in the maternity and child welfare section and seemed destined for the highest level. In 1939 he was one of the five principal medical officers designate for a regionalization scheme, which did not reach fruition because of the outbreak of war.

Maitland spent the war years at the Birmingham wartime regional office dealing with the West Midlands, and then returned to become head of the Ministry’s section for hospital planning, where he remained until his retirement. He was awarded the CBE.

Maitland had much detailed knowledge of the fields in which he worked, coupled with a great urge to impart it at length to any interlocutor, and complete certainty in his views. By contrast, he wrote with great difficulty and incessant revision, so that his literary output was late and small. He did draft the report of the Birmingham Hospital Survey for the surveyors, to whom he had given great help, but his inability to satisfy himself with his product made it the last of all to be completed. The same inhibitions were to lead to his failure to complete the treatise on hospital planning which was intended to be the outcome of his last two year’s work.

Maitland was not an easy colleague, especially for members of other professions, and despite the real kindness which was hidden behind his abrupt manner and rather forbidding appearance, he had few close ties at the end of his long service with the Ministry. He had been utterly loyal to his department, and his uncompromising assertion of official doctrine ruffled feathers outside it too. So one must record that a good, kind and able man did not find the place or opportunity that his knowledge and intellect should have made available to him. Perhaps the system should be blamed for that, rather than the man. He did have real friends, including the writer, but by the end of his 30 years of service he was an isolated man. Perhaps he would have been happier and gone farther as an academic, for he enjoyed teaching ‘Public Health’ at St Thomas’s and his exposition was always lucid and well informed.

In retrospect one must record that a highly talented man was given by circumstance too small an opportunity to make his mark - he would have been a good collaborator for Chadwick. Yet he did not evince disappointment or embitterment as other younger colleagues went past him, and that shows a quality of character that is all too uncommon. He was devoted to his family, who never failed to support him, and that reward may have been what he would have wanted most.

Sir George Godber

(Volume VIII, page 320)

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