Lives of the fellows

Laurence Cleveland Martin

b.24 May 1910 d.20 October 1981
MRCS LRCP(1934) MB BCh Cantab(1935) MRCP(1936) MD(1939) FRCP(1946)

Laurence Martin was born in Southampton, the son of William Martin, a chemist. He was educated at Sherborne School, Caius College, Cambridge, and the Middlesex Hospital. From Caius he obtained an exhibition to the Middlesex Hospital, coming back to Cambridge after qualification in 1934 as a house physician at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Subsequently he returned to the Middlesex Hospital to work in the Bland-Sutton Institute. While there he contracted tuberculosis and spent a year in his own hospital and at Midhurst, a period which gave him much time and food for thought.

In 1938 he became an Elmore research student, joining a team, formed by John Ryle in the department of medicine at Cambridge, all of whom achieved considerable distinction in later life. He continued to work in the same department after winning the Leverhulme scholarship in 1939; he resigned this scholarship at the outbreak of war. It was during this period that he started his researches on thyroid disease. He obtained his MD in 1939.

His previous health prevented him serving in the Forces, a matter which always seemed something of a disappointment to him. There is no doubt that his courage, temperament and personality would have made him an outstanding officer. During the war he remained in Cambridge, carrying a large workload in various hospitals in the area and becoming a specialist physician in the Emergency Medical Service. In 1946 he was appointed to the staff of Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

His interests lay in general medicine and endocrinology, particularly thyroid disease. He was a founder member of the Thyroid Club. He wrote many papers, including his classic work on the hereditary and familial aspects of exophthalmic and nodular goitre in collaboration with RA (later Sir Ronald) Fisher. In 1948 Clinical Endocrinology, a model of its kind, appeared. It ran to five editions, the last in 1969; initially it was written in association with Martin Hynes, but Laurence Martin was the sole author of later editions. He subsequently contributed to the endocrinological section of Conybeare’s Textbook of Medicine.

Martin was an individualist; a man of high ideals and strong personal views. A careful, indeed meticulous, clinician, nothing was too much trouble for him as far as his patients were concerned. He was a man of complete integrity and great kindness behind a somewhat formidable facade, to whom very many, not only the sick, turned for advice in their troubles. He had the ability to grasp the essentials of a problem - medical, social or administrative. He had a wide command of the English language and expressed himself, whether speaking or writing, with clarity and often with an unusual and trenchant phrase. He loathed all forms of pretentiousness and had no patience with committee men, career mongers and rulebound functionaries. His sense of humour, although sometimes caustic, was seldom exhausted.

Inevitably in the period in which he served he was involved in the development of the Health Service in East Anglia, and of Addenbrooke’s Hospital into a major teaching hospital, but his influence, which was considerable, was mainly behind the scenes. He served for many years on the Faculty Board of Medicine in the University, at a time when there was prolonged controversy regarding an undergraduate clinical school.

He was an associate lecturer in physic and served for some years as assessor to the regius professor of physic. He was an examiner in medicine in the University of Cambridge, for the University of London and for the Conjoint Board. He served as an examiner on the membership panel of the College and was a councillor from 1967 to 1970.

He had a particular interest in medical history and in old medical books, of which at one time he had a considerable collection. In his retirement he wrote the life of John Crane, the 17th century Cambridge apothecary, one of whose benefactions remains as Crane’s Charity for ‘poor sick scholars’, of which Martin was a Distributor for 25 years until his retirement. His researches for this work, which appeared in 1977, led to a further publication about this unusual family. At the time of his death he had just completed papers on John Addenbrooke and on the Downing Professors of Medicine, in collaboration with Arthur Rook. He was an enthusiastic gardener and a keen shot; he was able to enjoy these hobbies to within a day or two of his death.

In 1939 he married Mary, daughter of David Ellis, a well known and much respected surgeon, of Aberystwyth. They had three daughters and a son.

Martin had two serious illnesses in the last ten years of his life. He made a good recovery from both, although very slowly on the second occasion. He never complained. He always remained the same, and he stood for the best in medicine.

AP Dick

[, 1981, 283, 1269; Lancet, 1981, 2, 1060; Times, 28 Oct 1981]

(Volume VII, page 382)

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