Lives of the fellows

Peter Henry Martin

b.3 April 1896 d.17 November 1963
AFC(1918) MA Oxon(1924) BM BCh Oxon(1924) DTM&H Lond(1927) MRCP(1927) FRCP(1938)

Peter Martin was born in London where his father, Henry Charrington Martin, M.D., was in general practice in Southwick Place. His mother, Annie, was the daughter of Mr Gavin Thomas Todd, owner of woollen mills at Aberdeen. Peter came of a line of doctors, and was himself the fifth in direct succession; some of his uncles were also medically qualified. From Radley he entered the Royal Naval Air Service, but transferred in 1916 to the Royal Air Force, in which he spent three years. He was awarded the A.F.C. in 1918. Deciding to take up medicine, he entered New College, Oxford, and in 1922 went on to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, from which he took his Oxford B.M. in 1924. The next three years were spent in junior house appointments at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. By then his interest had been aroused in medical work overseas, and in 1927 he was appointed assistant pathologist at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Endsleigh Gardens before going to Malaya in the following year. In the Institute for Medical Research at Kuala Lumpur he worked first as a pathologist and later as bacteriologist. He studied the enormous problems surrounding the laboratory diagnosis of enteric and of typhus fever, and was said to be the first to cultivate Whitmore’s bacillus from the cerebrospinal fluid of a case of melioidosis.

Returning to England in 1934, he acted for a short time as assistant bacteriologist at the British Post-Graduate Medical School, spent two years at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and then in 1937 accepted an appointment as pathologist to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases. When war broke out in 1939 he joined the Emergency Public Health Laboratory Service and was posted to Colchester. The following year the laboratory was transferred to Ipswich, where he worked in the East Suffolk County Laboratory till he moved in 1948 to the newly built Public Health Laboratory at the Borough General Hospital. There he remained till he retired through ill health in 1958. During this time he published papers describing epidemiological investigations into outbreaks of paratyphoid fever and food poisoning (Monthly Bull. Minist. Hlth Lab. Service, 1947 6, 148-51; 1949, 8, 38-47), and bacteriological studies on the cultivation of the tubercle bacillus (ibid., 1952, 11, 187-206; 1953, 12, 232-41; 1957, 17, 103-22).

In 1945 he contracted typhoid fever, almost certainly as the result of a laboratory infection, and spent three months in hospital. In 1956 attacks of paroxysmal tachycardia were followed by coronary thrombosis. Though he continued to work for another two years, he never regained his former vitality, and was unable when he retired to devote himself fully, as he had hoped to do, to the cultivation of his garden. In his country house at Melton, near Woodbridge, he occupied himself in the peaceful pursuits of photography and bird-watching. He took part in the village activities, was always ready to lecture to the Women’s Institute, and acted as treasurer to the parochial church council at St. Andrew’s, Melton.

Martin was slightly reserved, but very friendly. He maintained the high standards of courtesy, breeding and behaviour that were expected of the medical profession in the earlier part of the twentieth century. There was an individuality about him based on his firm religious convictions, his sense of what was right and proper, and his respect for the opinions of others. He was a meticulously careful worker; he looked after his staff with an almost paternal interest. Though occasionally roused to anger, he was essentially a mild, helpful, hospitable man, assiduous for the welfare of those about him.

In 1928 he married Phyllis Mary, daughter of Mr B. C. Garfit, of Dalby Hall, Spilsby, Lincolnshire. They had no issue.

Richard R Trail

[, 1963, 2, 1412; J.Path.Bact., 1964, 88, 622-5 (p), bibl.; Lancet, 1963, 2, 1 172-3.]

(Volume V, page 270)

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