Lives of the fellows

George Norman Myers

b.18 February 1898 d.6 September 1981
BSc Durh(1922) MSc(1923) MB BS(1927) MD(1930) PhD(1933) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1941)

Norman Myers was born and educated in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His mother was an emancipated woman; running a large family, two shops, and yet still managing to travel abroad to remote parts. He graduated from Durham University, then served as house physician and later house surgeon at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. It was at this time he met his future wife, Karen Danielson, who worked there as a physiotherapist. He gained the gold medal for his MD thesis in 1930, and was Beit Memorial fellow 1930-33.

During the first world war he served as an infantry officer and was wounded in the right hand. This resulted in tetanus and ended his service in the Army. He quickly learned to write with his left hand, and remained ambidextrous even when his right hand had regained its use.

In the 1930s he came south to Cambridge to start research with W E Dixon [Munk's Roll, Vol.V., p.104] on toxaemia, its effects, and on substitutes for morphine and heroin. He had some interesting tales to tell about repeated theft of the genuine drugs by a young male addict, and of how he and his laboratory assistant managed to foil him, and catch him. During this time he became a Freeman of the City of London, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, and a member of the Heberden Society, the Phsyiological Society, and the British Pharmacological Society.

The second world war interrupted his career and he served as a local practitioner, stepping in to fill the gap left by the younger men who were called up for service in the Forces. He combined this with the supervision of medical studies at Cambridge University, and active participation in the Home Guard as a medical officer. His family soon became accustomed to being surrounded by the tools of war and mock manoeuvres: explosives were stored beneath the Wendy House, barbed wire and empty oil drums encircled the garden, meetings were held deep into the night in a hut in the lane, complete strangers were carried off, protesting, on stretchers, under cover of smoke bombs on Grantchester Meadows, when Dad’s Army pounced. Plots for foiling an invasion by the use of canisters of poison concealed down rabbit holes were mentioned, but no clear details were ever made known to his bemused wife and children.

He was a man of great charm and a vivid raconteur. When he left Cambridge and general practice in 1947 it was a loss to many of his patients, who remained his good friends. He was appointed director of research in rheumatoid arthritis at the Regional Medical Research Centre, Harrogate, and was consulting physician to the Royal Bath Hospital, Harrogate; York County Hospital; Bradford Royal Infirmary; Scarborough General Hospital, and Wakefield and Pontefract General Infirmary. Visiting each of these hospitals on a weekly, or fortnightly, rota he became a familiar figure driving on the roads of the West Riding, often accompanied by his family who made use of his regular ‘taxi’ service.

He was a pioneer in the use of cortisone, using it sparingly as it was both a new drug and in short supply, and finding better results with lower doses. To his child patients in the rheumatology wards he was known as ‘Uncle Norman’ and he always spent an hour or two on Christmas morning acting as Santa Claus. He was much loved by patients and staff. Reluctantly, he retired in 1968. He remained very active however, enjoying his grandchildren and his hobbies of carpentry and polo - the latter strictly as an observer. He was killed in a road accident outside Harrogate in September 1981. He was survived by his three children: his elder son carrying on the tradition of medicine, his second son as an accountant, and his daughter as a professional artist.

D Elsdon Myers

(Volume VIII, page 358)

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