Lives of the fellows

Albert Victor Neale

b.15 December 1899 d.1 November 1970
MB ChB Birm(1926) MD(1927) MRCP(1928) DPH(1931) FRCP(1939)

Victor Neale was born in Birmingham, one of ten children of William Neale, a manufacturer. His mother was Elizabeth Weller, the daughter of an estate agent in Birmingham. Leaving school at the age of 14, he became a ‘lab. boy’ in the Chemistry Department of the University of Sheffield. The Head of the Department, recognizing his qualities, encouraged him to matriculate, which he did by attending night classes. In the 1914-18 war he served in the Royal Naval Air Service and in the Royal Air Force. Demobilised in 1919 he won a scholarship to the University of Birmingham and in 1926 graduated MB ChB with Gold Medals in medicine and surgery. He held various house appointments in the Birmingham hospitals, including that of RMO at the Children’s Hospital.

He proceeded to MD with Honours in 1927 and MRCP in 1928. The same year he was awarded a Rockefeller Scholarship which he held at the Harvard Medical School, working with Professor K. Blackfan. Professionally adopted by Sir Leonard Parsons on his return to England, he rapidly developed his life-long interest in paediatrics and was appointed pathologist to the Children’s Hospital, Birmingham. In 1932 he was appointed physician to Out-patients at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, becoming full physician in 1944. In 1933 he was appointed assistant physician to the General Hospital, Birmingham, and was promoted full physician in 1938. He built up a busy consultant practice in both adult medicine and in paediatrics.

A kind and generous man, patient care took up every minute of the day so that there was no time left for research. This was no doubt one of the reasons which led him to move to Bristol in 1947 as the first occupant of the newly created Chair in Child Health. Here with his boundless energy and enthusiasm he rapidly welded all the different disciplines concerned with child care and health into a very active department. When he came to Bristol there was no paediatrician outside the City in what became with the advent of the National Health Service the South Western Region. As successive paediatricians were appointed he took them all under his wing and made them feel that they were part of his department. With this end in view he founded the South West Paediatric Club, an outstanding success.

Victor Neale was a vivacious and inspiring teacher, beloved by generations of students in both Birmingham and Bristol. His early work and training as a pathologist proved invaluable in his subsequent career, and it was a great pleasure to hear him gently - or not so gently - quizzing the pathologists at a clinico-pathological conference.

From 1956-1960 he was a popular Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. An active member of the British Paediatric Association, he was elected President in 1961. The same year he was President of the Section of Paediatrics of the Royal Society of Medicine and, as if that was not enough, Heath Clark lecturer in the University of London and Long Fox lecturer in the University of Bristol. The Heath Clark lectures revealed his ‘global’ approach to child health, and the title of the last of these might be taken as summarising his philosophy of paediatrics - ‘Child Health - Medical, Educational, Cultural and Humanistic’. In his memorable Long Fox Lecture, ‘Medical Progress in Bristol’, he displayed his great interest in, and knowledge of, the history and evolution of medicine.

His published papers show how widely his interests ranged over the whole of medicine and paediatrics. A favourite saying was "Medicine is indivisible" and he frequently pleaded for "interdigitation, be it vertical, horizontal or otherwise". He contributed valuable papers on Erythema exudativum multiforme in childhood (Arch. Dis. Child. 1948, 23, 183) and Polyarteritis in childhood (Arch. Dis. Child. 1949, 24, 224). After moving to Bristol his main research interest was in respiratory function and disease in childhood (Proc. R. Soc. Med. 1962, 55, 685) and growth and development (various papers in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology between 1964 and 1970).

He played his full part in medical administration and served on the Board of Governors of the United Bristol Hospitals from 1948-1052 and on the South Western Regional Hospital Board from 1955 to 1965. From 1962 until his death he was a member of the South West England Faculty Board of the College of General Practitioners. At the time of his death he was acting chairman of the Southmead Hospital Management Committee.

On retiring from the Chair in 1965 he became, if possible, more active than ever. Two visits to Newfoundland to advise on the medical services and the establishment of a medical school were followed by two periods as WHO Professor of Child Health at Khartoum. Here by his infectious enthusiasm and drive he established a department of child health on the same broad lines that had been so successful in Bristol. Here, too, he endeared himself to his colleagues, both Sudanese and expatriate, who quickly learnt to appreciate his advice.

His hobbies and interests were wide, but he was looking forward to enjoying his new garden to which he had moved a short time before he died.

He married in 1936 Phyllis Mary, the daughter of Frederick Ball, a schoolteacher, who had been his house physician. They had three daughters, one of whom became a nurse.

He died as he would have wished, dramatically suddenly at his home which he so much enjoyed in Bristol.

CB Perry

[, 1970, 1, 437 & 506; Lancet, 1970, 7, 370 & 480; Times, 1 Feb 1970]

(Volume VI, page 355)

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