Lives of the fellows

Thomas Beaton

b.24 December 1888 d.31 August 1964
OBE(1918) CBE(1951) MB BS Lond(1911) MD Lond(1914) MD(Psycol Med) Lond(1920) MRCS LRCP(1911) MRCP(1919) FRCP(1928)

Thomas Beaton was born in Portsmouth. He was named after his father, an Admiralty civil servant; his mother was Grace Towan, daughter of a mining engineer. He attended Howardian High School, Cardiff, before enrolling at Charing Cross Hospital, where he was to hold three junior posts, and he had spent two years as assistant medical officer to Long Grove Mental Hospital before serving for five years with the Royal Navy in World War I. From 1916 to 1919 he was in charge of the mental and nervous section of Chatham Hospital. A further year as senior medical officer to the Maudsley Hospital and six years as senior assistant physician to the Bethlem Hospital developed his interest in academic psychiatry because of his association with Petrie and Edward Bond.

His failure to obtain an appointment to a London teaching hospital meant a gain to Portsmouth, when in 1926 he became director of its mental health services, physician superintendent of St. James’s Hospital and consultant to the General Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley.

Beaton’s success in establishing an excellent comprehensive mental health service and in breaking down the old traditions of the mental hospital by lectures to medical colleagues and the public did much to encourage the Board of Control in its work for the passing of the Mental Treatment Act of 1930. This was to him the one compensation for his disappointment when his life’s work at Portsmouth disappeared with the introduction of the National Health Act in 1948.

In recognition of his work in Portsmouth he was awarded the C.B.E, in 1951, and for his consultative work for the Royal Dutch Navy during the war was appointed an Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau (1948). He was a good clinician; his enquiring mind was always open to new therapeutic methods, and at the service of every colleague.

His hobbies were golf, freemasonry and in particular music. As an accomplished pianist he became president of the Portsmouth Philharmonic and Musical Competitions Festival Societies, and vice-president of the Trinity College of Music.

But he did not neglect committee work in his medical specialty; he was secretary of the Mental Disorders Committee of the Medical Research Council from 1921 to 1926, and member of council and later vice-president of the Medical Protection Society which he served from 1923 till his retirement in 1952. He was also a contributor to Early mental disease (Lancet extra no.) [1926].

He married twice; first Mildred Marie, daughter of Arthur Essex, a merchant, in 1914 (she died in 1934) and second Alice Barbara, daughter of Archibald Hay Grant Heelas, a solicitor, in 1953. There were no children of these marriages.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1964, 2, 695, 826 (p); Charing Cr. Hosp. Gaz., 1964-5, 62, 234; Lancet, 1964, 2, 596.]

(Volume V, page 33)

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