Lives of the fellows

Percival Brooke Mumford

b.7 April 1896 d.10 June 1972
MB ChB Manch(1920) MRCP(1922) MD(1925) FRCP(1932) Hon FFR

Percival Mumford was born in Manchester, the son of Alfred Alexander Mumford, a paediatrician and especially medical officer of Manchester Grammer School, where he did original work. His mother was Edith E. Read, the daughter of Charles Read, a physician.

He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Manchester University, where he qualified in 1920 with distinctions in pathology, surgery, gynaecology and obstetrics. His MRCP came in 1922 and his MD in 1925.

He held the posts of house physician, pathologist to the venereal disease department and assistant medical officer to the dermatology department from 1924-28, all at the Royal Infirmary. He became assistant medical officer at the Manchester and Salford Skin Hospital in 1921, rising to consultant dermatologist in 1931, holding the post until 1961. He was honorary dermatologist at Warrington Infirmary from 1929 to 1938, and the Park Hospital, Davyhulme, from 1929 to 1939. He was visiting pathologist at the Cheshire County Mental Hospital, Macclesfield, from 1921-33, honorary dermatologist at the Manchester Royal Infirmary from 1931-61 and clinical instructor in venereal diseases 1932-54, and lecturer in dermatology at Manchester University from 1936-61.

Mumford was commissioned as a combatant officer in the Royal Field Artillery in 1915 and remained in the Corps until 1918, seeing service on the French and Italian Fronts. During this period he was thrown from his horse and fractured his skull but he recovered and returned to duty. The only permanent damage was some left-ear deafness. Subsequently he held a commission in the RAMC and was a keen member of the Territorial Army.

He became the doyen of dermatologists in Manchester. His services to the community and to dermatology in the north of England were unique. His name became a household word amongst patients, general practitioners, solicitors, trades unions and insurance companies, making him the first choice in medico-legal aspects of his speciality. His private practice and hospital clinics were large, for his reputation was built on exceptional diagnostic skill, based on a vast knowledge of his subject, an outstanding intellect and a humane approach to his patients. He had a flair for finding the right treatment for the patient and the disease. He remained in practice to within a few days of his death.

He did original work on Thorium X and efficient ointment bases but his greatest contribution to dermatology was his far-seeing belief that all consultants in his speciality, working in Manchester, should be equal members of the staff of the Skin Hospital, and this long before the Health Service Act came into operation. The result was harmony and a special relationship which persists to the present time. Another field of his far-sightedness was his advocacy that radiotherapists and dermatologists should cooperate in the treatment of skin malignancies. He established such a happy relationship with the Christie Hospital that for more than 30 years there has been a weekly clinic at the Skin Hospital, controlled by a radiotherapist. This led to his election as an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Radiologists.

He was a splendid teacher with a ready sense of humour and a fund of stories culled from his experience to illustrate his points. He wrote papers on the quality of the skin in mental patients, the estimation of sudoriferous activity and its relation to temperament, medico-legal difficulties in occupational dermatitis and emulsifying bases in dermatology. He contributed to The Encyclopaedia of Medical Practice and to Paediatrics.

Mumford was a keen sportsman, playing lacrosse, cricket and golf. He was also at one time a useful hurdler and he took a lively interest in boxing.

He married in 1918 Kathleen Vera Neill, daughter of John Neill, printer of Whalley Range, Manchester. He was a devoted family man and celebrated his golden wedding a few years before he died. There were three children, one son, a doctor, and two daughters, one a doctor and the other a physiotherapist. He died in the Christie Hospital, Manchester.

William Brockbank

[Brit.med.J., 1972, 3, 649; Lancet, 1972, 2, 548]

(Volume VI, page 351)

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