Lives of the fellows

Henry George Miller

b.13 December 1913 d.25 August 1976
MB BS Durh(1937) MD(1940) MRCP(1940) DPM Lond(1943) FRCP(1953)

Henry Miller was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, the son of John Miller an engineer and his wife Mabel Isobel Bainbridge. He attended the Grammar School at Stockton-on-Tees from 1924 to 1931, when he became a student at the University of Durham College of Medicine in Newcastle upon Tyne, qualifying with honours in 1937. During his undergraduate career he was president of the University Union. After resident appointments in the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne he became assistant resident pathologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, USA, in 1938, and then undertook clinical appointments at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London in 1939.

He was a neuropsychiatric specialist with the rank of squadron leader in the RAF Medical Service from 1942 to 1946, and after demobilization worked in neurology as a post-service registrar at Hammersmith Hospital and at the National Hospital, Queen Square, from 1946 to 1947. He was appointed assistant physician to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1947 and served in that capacity until 1958, when he was appointed consultant neurologist to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, becoming reader in neurology in 1961 and professor of neurology in 1964. From 1966 to 1968 he was dean of medicine, and in 1968 was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, an appointment that he held until his death in 1976.

In 1963 Henry Miller visited Brisbane as the Sir Henry Tooth guest professor of medicine, and during that tour lectured in the universities of Sydney, Melbourne, Karachi, Lahore, Bangkok and Tokyo. He also held visiting professorships in Canada and in the University of California, San Francisco. From 1967 to 1971 he was director of the British Medical Association’s Planning Unit, and from 1965 to 1973 he was secretary-general-treasurer of the World Federation of Neurology. He was from time to time external examiner in medicine to Queen’s University, Belfast, and to the University of Liverpool. In 1961 he gave the Milroy lectures to the Royal College of Physicians. From 1974 to 1975 he was president of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland. On two occasions he was president of the Students’ Medical Society in Newcastle upon Tyne.

His major publications included the following books: Early Diagnosis (1960), Modern Medical Treatment (1962) and 2nd Edition, with R Hall (1975), and Medicine and Society (1973). He was joint editor of Progress in Clinical Medicine which went through eight editions between 1948 and 1971; and wrote Diseases of the Nervous System with WB Matthews, the first edition being published in 1972, the second in 1975. He wrote more than 200 scientific papers on internal medicine, neurology and psychiatry in many medical journals and was also a regular contributor to The Listener, to Encounter, and to World Medicine.

When first appointed as assistant physician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle he prospered for several years as a busy and much sought after consultant in part-time private practice. Generations of medical students and staff owed much to his inspired teaching and example. In 1958 he established a new department of neurology, firmly based on clinical work and research, and this department developed rapidly and acquired an international reputation. Henry Miller’s research on multiple sclerosis, head injury, accident neurosis and many diverse neurological topics won him wide renown, and his review articles, many published in the BMJ, were widely read and quoted, as were his outspoken criticisms of the National Health Service.

His energy, his drive, his remarkable intuitive clinical ability, his abounding flow of language spiked with barbs of at times wounding wit, and above all, his unbounded generosity to friends, colleagues and junior staff, were extraordinary. If he was not always popular with his peers, who frequently misunderstood and more often misinterpreted his roguish wit, he was loved by his juniors and contemporaries, especially those who worked closely with him and knew him best and readily forgave his outrageous remarks. Always a bon viveur and lover of the arts, a man of wide culture despite his outward buffoonery, he loved a spirited riposte and was never reluctant to admit either that he was wrong or that he had been bested in an argument.

As vice-chancellor his skill in handling the student body was matchless. Whether with senior academics, students, porters, clerks or visitors, however distinguished, he was superbly unpredictable, original and always irreverently cheerful. His major interests were in opera, literature, and in good food and wine, and he was an enthusiastic member of the Athenaeum and of the Garrick Club.

He married in June 1942 Eileen Cathcart MRCOG, daughter of George Gibson Baird, an engineer of North Shields, Northumberland, and they had two sons and two daughters.

Sir John Walton

[, 1976, 2, 591, 648, 765; Lancet, 1976, 2, 527; Times, 27 Aug 1976]

(Volume VII, page 396)

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