Lives of the fellows

George Melton

b.29 August 1905 d.31 March 1993
MRCS LRCP(1928) MB BS Lond(1931) MRCP(1932) MD(1933) FRCP(1969)

George Melton was the quintessential general physician, based at a busy district general hospital in London. His background was European. He was born in Paris, the child of a refugee from the Tsarist pogroms and a French mother. She died when George was very young and his father brought him to England when he was six. Melton senior was from all accounts a very strong personality (a trait which his son inherited in a very benign form) and imparted to his son a love of literature and music and the social and political views of a liberal agnostic, all of which stayed with him throughout his life. He was educated at the Collyer’s School, Horsham, Sussex, and then at the Westminster Hospital Medical School. After house jobs at the Westminster and at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, he became an assistant medical registrar and later a senior medical registrar at the Westminster Hospital.

In 1937 he joined the London County Council hospital service as a senior medical officer at Lewisham Hospital on a salary of £600 a year. This was a post of considerable responsibility, particularly onerous in war time London.

Moving to the Birmingham municipal hospital service in 1943 George became a consultant physician at Dudley Road Hospital. The work there was largely but not exclusively paediatric and he had charge of over one hundred beds with little junior staff support. Overwork, particularly in war time conditions, contributed to a breakdown in his health. He developed pulmonary tuberculosis and was off work for a year. Apparently recovering he re-joined the LCC as a consultant physician at Highlands General Hospital, London. His return to work was premature and cavitating pulmonary lesions developed. Admitted to a sanatorium, he was given a poor prognosis and expected to die. Two colleagues at Highlands took him under their care and treated him with massive doses of streptomycin, enough to deafen most people. He recovered sufficiently to undergo thoracoplasty and by 1949 was fit enough to resume duties, ready to work as hard as ever.

Over the next twenty years George played a major role in transforming the old isolation hospital (Highlands) into a busy district general hospital serving a population of some 200,000. He developed services for general medicine, diabetes and cardiology. A successful resection of a carcinoma of the colon was but a temporary hitch. He was instrumental in setting up the coronary care unit which was named the Melton coronary unit.

Perhaps his greatest talent was as a diagnostician. His publications included papers on sulphonamides, on oxygen therapy and on the treatment of diabetes. He co-wrote A concise applied pharmacology and therapeutics, London, Leonard Hill, which ran to three editions (the first edition being published in 1937).

He was a loyal and cultured colleague, widely read, an authority on classical music and no mean violinist. Both his marriages ended in divorce, but he took pride in the achievements of his four children. He achieved a degree of personal happiness in a retirement home for professional people, where he found a congenial spirit who shared his love for music. He died peacefully from a pulmonary infection.

H Caplan

(Volume X, page 334)

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