Lives of the fellows

Frederick Murgatroyd

b.27 August 1902 d.16 December 1951
MB ChB Liverp(1926) DTM&H Liverp(1927) MD Liverp(1929) MRCP(1933) FRCP(1940)

Frederick Murgatroyd was the only child of Joseph Murgatroyd and Margaret Emma, née Marsden. He was educated at Wallasey Grammar School and Liverpool University. He had thought of specialising in neurology, but was influenced towards tropical medicine by Warrington Yorke, the then professor of tropical medicine at the Liverpool School, who was a patient in the Royal Infirmary while Murgatroyd was a house surgeon. The result was that he was elected to the staff of the School as assistant lecturer in protozoology in 1927, and two years later as clinical pathologist.

In 1934, following some months of work on filariasis at the School’s Sir Alfred Lewis Jones Laboratory in Freetown, he was appointed lecturer in tropical medicine, and assistant physician under Warrington Yorke at the Royal Infirmary. From 1936 to 1937 he worked under the Medical Research Council in Gambia, where he made clinical trials on cases of trypanosomiasis with the synthetic drugs he had produced with his chief.

On his return he was persuaded by Neil Hamilton Fairley to accept posts of lecturer in clinical medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and assistant physician to the Tropical Diseases and Albert Dock and Dreadnought Hospitals, which then formed part of the Seamen’s Hospital Society. For such work he was well qualified, for he was by then a sound physician with a distinguished record of original work on amoebiasis, filariasis, blackwater fever, Weil’s disease, kala-azar and trypanosomiasis, and with a flair for studies on chemotherapy and drug resistance as a result of his wide knowledge of chemistry. He was the author of the tropical section of the twelfth edition of Savill’s A System of clinical medicine (1944) and of Daley and Miller’s Progress in clinical medicine (1948).

By the time of the outbreak of World War II he was already consultant physician to the Colonial Office and a member of the Typhus Diagnosis Panel of the Ministry of Health, so that his appointment as lieutenant-colonel, R.A.M.C., with the duties of consultant physician and assistant director of pathology in West Africa was not unexpected. In 1944 he went to Europe shortly after ‘D-Day’ and was one of the first to enter Belsen Camp.

Demobilisation found him back in his pre-war posts and in a renewed association with Fairley, who became in 1946 the first holder of the Wellcome chair of clinical tropical medicine in the University of London. To this chair he succeeded in 1950, the year which saw the establishment of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases for which he had planned for many years. He was still actively engaged, despite heavy responsibilities as physician, teacher and administrator, in the formation of a unit that would combine laboratory with experimental and clinical work when he died at the early age of forty-nine.

Murgatroyd was no narrow physician although he had a profound knowledge of his specialty. Though a quiet, retiring man, unwilling, unless forced, to give an opinion, and slow to make friends, whom he valued as they valued him, he had an intense interest in every aspect of the individual patient. His hobbies were his home, his piano, tennis, shooting, fishing, and, for a time gliding, all of them lightened by an innate humour and generosity.

In 1930 he married Mabel Clough, the daughter of a retired Post Office official. She left in her will £3,000 so that the College could set up the Frederick Murgatroyd memorial, with a prize to be awarded triennially to a medical graduate under forty-five years of age who made an important contribution to the science or practice of tropical medicine.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1951, 2, 1586-7; J. Amer. med. Ass., 1952, 148, 660; Lancet, 1951, 2, 1229 (p).]

(Volume V, page 299)

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