Lives of the fellows

Robert Benson Martin

b.3 January 1914 d.16 August 1981
MB BS Durh(1936) MD(1938) MRCP(1946) FRCP(1974)

Bob Martin, the youngest of five children, was born in Newcastle upon Tyne where his father was a licensed victualler. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle upon Tyne, from which he moved to the medical school which was then part of the University of Durham. After posts as house surgeon to Hamilton Barclay and house physician to Horsley Drummond at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, he entered general practice in Newcastle in 1938. In February 1939 he joined the Territorial Army and in September that year began war service with a field ambulance of the British Expeditionary Force in France and later in the Middle East, until 1944, during which he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, and was mentioned in despatches. From 1944 he was with Army General Hospitals and ended his service career as a medical specialist with the rank of major.

On his return to civilian life he became senior medical registrar to CC Ungley at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, and a consultant to the Northern Counties Chest Hospital. He became MRCP in 1946, and returned to general practice in 1948, including part time factory appointments. In 1967 he contracted bladder cancer and had to have an ileal conduit. Largely because of this he left general practice altogether in 1970 to become a full time occupational medical adviser. The firm to which he was attached, Proctor and Gamble of Newcastle upon Tyne, had a serious medical problem of occupational asthma, related to the use of enzyme soap powders, and Martin played a prominent part in the investigations into this and in implementing the measures which were brought in to enable workers to handle enzyme materials safely. He was accredited as a specialist in occupational medicine in 1978.

Martin took a keen interest in other patients with ileal conduits and when John Swinney, who had operated on him, started a conduit association, Martin was unanimously elected president, and later when a national conduit association was formed became president of that also.

During his University life he was a keen sportsman and played rugby football for Durham University, as well as cricket for the College of Medicine, and later rugby football for the Northumberland County Club. He was also a keen member of Northumberland Golf Club and interested in gardening and bridge.

He married in 1938 Audrey Alexander Benson, a physical training teacher and physiotherapist, but had no children.

Bob Martin was a quiet and kind man, who was very highly esteemed as a family doctor and as a careful clinician who inspired confidence. It was significant that amongst his patients were members of the consulting staff of the teaching hospital.

He retired in 1979, and died in the Royal Victoria Infirmary from complications following surgical treatment of an aortic aneurysm.

RI McCallum

[Brit.med.J., 1981, 283, 1474-5]

(Volume VII, page 385)

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