Lives of the fellows

Davis Evan Bedford

b.21 August 1898 d.24 January 1978
CBE(1963) MRCS LRCP(1921) MB BS Lond(1921) MD(1925) FRCP(1931) Hon MD Cairo(1944)

Evan Bedford was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, the son of William and Lilian Bedford. He was educated at Epsom College and the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. He interrupted his medical studies in 1918 to serve as surgeon sub-lieutenant RNVR, and at the end of the war returned to his medical school to qualfy in 1921. At the Middlesex Hospital, he was in turn house physician, casualty medical officer, medical registrar and resident anaesthetist. His appointment as medical officer in charge of the cardiac wards at the Ministry of Pensions Hospital at Orpington, was to fashion his future career as a cardiologist. It was here that he first came under the influence of John (later Sir John) Parkinson, already a recognized authority on heart disease, to mark the beginning of an association which later was to make the names of Parkinson and Bedford one of the best known combinations in the contemporary literature of cardiology.

Evan Bedford spent 1926 in Paris with Charles Laubry, and in Lyons with Louis Gallavardin, the greatest cardiological savants of the day. He was recalled from France to become Paterson Research Scholar at the London Hospital, where he was reunited with Parkinson. Together they studied cardiac infarction, and went on to publish a series of papers on the electrocardiograms in that condition, which soon became internationally acclaimed classics.

In 1926, Bedford was appointed assistant physician to the Middlesex Hospital and in 1933, physician to outpatients at the National Heart Hospital. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the second world war, during which he was appointed consulting physician to the Middle East Forces. Brigadier Bedford became known as an efficient if demanding officer among the medical divisions, from Aleppo on the Turkish frontier to the hospitals behind the Eighth Army in Cyprus, Malta, and Khartoum. In December 1943, he was summoned by Lord Moran to attend Winston Churchill, who had developed pneumonia complicated by atrial fibrillation when staying at General Eisenhower’s villa at Carthage. ‘His presence’ Moran wrote at the time, ‘will keep the people at home quiet…’. It also provided the Prime Minister with the idea that M&B 693, one of the vehicles of his recovery, should be renamed Moran and Bedford.

The war over, Bedford returned to his hospital duties at the Middlesex and National Heart Hospitals, and to a private practice which soon became the largest and most distinguished in his specialty. In the meantime, cardiac catheterization, angiocardiography, and surgery had ushered in new dimensions to the diagnosis and treatment of valvular and congenital heart disease. The new cardiology brought with it the vocabulary of surgical anatomy with which Bedford was already fluent from his apprenticeship in the postmortem room. He felt a special kinship in the early days of cardiac surgery with Holmes Sellors and Brock, and spent many hours in the operating theatre, spellbound by the sight of the living tissues whose structure had intrigued him for so long. Post-operative discussion about an unusual mitral valve or septal defect would be illuminated by extempore quotations from Rokitansky’s Die Defecte der Scheidewande des Herzens, Lower’s Tractatus de Corde or his special favourites, the Irish Victorians, Adams, Stokes and Corrigan.

Bedford was now in his prime, and was acknowledged as an international authority on the new cardiology. National and foreign professional bodies honoured him; he was elected president of the British Cardiac Society and of the European Society of Cardiology, chairman of council of the British Heart Foundation, and vice-president of the International Society of Cardiology. He was consultant in cardiology to the Royal Air Force, the Army, and other public bodies, and editor of the British Heart Journal. His fame was recognized abroad by honorary membership of numerous foreign cardiological societies, including French, Swiss, Belgian, Italian, Egyptian, Brazilian, Indian, and Australian. At home, he delivered all the relevant, distinguished named lectures, including the Harveian Oration, Bradshaw, Lumleian, Strickland Goodall, St Cyres, and Carey Coombs lectures. He was appointed CBE in 1963.

In his early days, Bedford was a capable athlete, excelling at cricket, hockey, golf, and billiards. He generated an aura of admiration and affection in a succession of house physicians and registrars, which endured, even thrived on affectations of irascibility and intolerance to noise, hospital administrators, traffic congestion in the streets around the Middlesex, and ever-increasing neurotic ill health in his outpatients.

Bedford’s interest in collecting rare books on the heart and circulation began when he was a registrar, evolving through his professional life into a unique and internationally acclaimed library now housed in the Harveian Library of the Royal College of Physicians. He spent the last few years of his life cataloguing his collection, and bibliographers who predicted the outcome to be of a high standard have been proved right. With the publication of the Catalogue of the Evan Bedford Library of Cardiology, Bedford considered his contribution to his craft complete. He withdrew unobtrusively from society and died in 1978, appropriately the 400th anniversary of the birth of William Harvey.

In 1935, he married Audrey Selina, daughter of Milton Ely, for many years chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Heart Hospital. They had two sons.

W Somerville

[, 1978,1, 308, 515; Lancet, 1978,1, 288; Times, 28 Jan 1978; Brit. Heart J., 1978, 40]

(Volume VII, page 28)

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