Lives of the fellows

Hugh Leslie Marriott

b.6 November 1900 d.29 January 1983
CBE(1946) MRCS LRCP(1925) MB BS Lond(1927) MD(1929) MRCP(1930) FRCP(1938)

Hugh Marriott’s life style was governed by certain distinctive qualities: he was a well coordinated driving force with a well organized mind; he was efficient and effective. He was also humorous and fairminded, with a humanity which made him a most likeable personality. His life’s work revolved round the Middlesex Hospital and the Army; the Middlesex because he was educated there, qualifying in 1925 and becoming its most effective RMO and consultant physician; the Army because of an illustrious 1940-1945 war record.

Marriott was born in Durban, South Africa. He was the son of Samuel Augustus Marriott, a member of the firm of Russell & Marriott, accountants and notaries, and his wife, Ada Cording. He came to England and studied medicine at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. After house appointments at St Charles Infirmary, he returned to the Middlesex as resident medical officer in 1928.

This was a particularly significant time in the history of the hospital. The main block of the old hospital, which had been completed in 1848, was found to be unsafe and complete rebuilding became essential. Of the handful of people who had influence in the 1930s, Hugh Marriott contributed more than most to the rebuilding: the introduction of the unitary system of notes, the concept of placing the X-ray department at the heart of the building, the new relationships between school and hospital necessitated by the introduction of resident students, the reorganization of a central admissions systems, and many other features which are accepted as commonplace today were instituted by him in his early years of office. He succeeded Sir Robert Arthur Young as a consultant in 1936, and retired in 1966, having given his lifework to the welfare of the hospital.

For a brief period he became the commandant of the Middlesex Hospital in order to put it on a wartime footing, leaving to join the RAMC in 1940 with the rank of captain, and serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps shock research unit under Colonel John Beattie in Bristol.

In 1941 he was appointed as a one man commission to report on the effects of heat stroke and sodium imbalance in the Western Desert -a report that had considerable effect on the medical care of troops fighting in tropical conditions. In his 1946 Croonian lecture on salt and water depletion he summarized the basic physiological principles on which the administration of the appropriate electrolyte fluid should be based; the lecture was published in the BMJ, and as a monograph in the series of American lectures in physiology. No 32, 1947.

He also perfected the intravenous drip regulating apparatus, on which he had earlier worked with Alan Kekwick. The original equipment was complicated and cumbersome by modern standards, but it worked well and was a significant factor in facilitating the intravenous infusion of blood and other fluids. He took a leading part in performing the same service for oxygen therapy. In 1944 he was transferred as consultant physician to the Army in Burma. Again he left his mark, and many still remember not only his personal visits to their units but also his contribution in reducing the high sickness rate prevalent in the appalling conditions of the Burma jungle.

Marriott returned to the Middlesex in 1945 to put the hospital on a peacetime footing with the same superb organizing ability with which he had placed it on a wartime footing. At this stage of his life he had to choose between a university chair of medicine or a private consulting practice. He chose the later and remained at the Middlesex until his retirement. His teaching method was didactic and many generations of students will remember his ward rounds with pleasure. He would take a subject and explore it in a logical, sequential and systematic way. While he could be severe on sloppy thinking or work, he never demeaned his juniors by the use of ridicule. One might feel chastened, but not humbled. Few teachers can achieve this subtle distinction but to Marriott it came easily. It was an eloquent expression of the regard in which he was held by those who had worked for him that, upon his retirement, a large number of his former house physicians and registrars met at the Middlesex Hospital to dine and wine their former chief. His speech upon that occasion was in the true Marriott vein — short, pungent, humorous and non-pompous.

He married Alice Vida, daughter of William Cureton, veterinary surgeon, in 1930. They had no children.

D Geraint James
RA Womersley
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme

[Brit.med.J., 1983, 286, 811 & 1070; Lancet, 1983,1, 486-7; Middx. Hosp. J., Aug 1966, 66(4), 128-29]

(Volume VII, page 379)

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