Lives of the fellows

Charles Edward Newman

b.16 March 1900 d.22 August 1989
CBE(1965) BA Cantab(1921) MRCS LRCP(1923) MB BCh(1924) MRCP(1926) MD(1927) FRCP(1932)

The son of a solicitor, Charles Newman was born at 42 Gower Street, London. His father, Charles Arnold Newman, who came from the family firm in Barnsley, practised at Upperton’s - next door to the Royal College of Surgeons. He had met and married Kate Beck, the daughter of a Loughborough coal merchant, while being a temporary schoolmaster there. By her, he had two other sons, James Lister, who became a member of the College and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College; and Rudolf, an engineer captain in the Royal Navy.

Charles had no formal education before the age of 12; then he went to Mill Mead School in Shrewsbury for a year before going on to Shrewsbury School, where he was greatly influenced by Cyril Alington and Ronald Knox but did very badly to the grief of his parents. He left school in 1918 and spent the summer in the Oxford University OTC, though irregular heartbeats - of no significance - were regarded as a bar to more active service. He was demobilized in 1919, in time to go to Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he passed the first MB in two terms and the second in two more, but only achieved a second class in the Natural Sciences Tripos - a failure which he felt saved him from a fellowship and a dangerously comfortable life.

He went on to King's College Hospital and qualified with the Conjoint. Various house appointments followed at the Belgrave Hospital for Sick Children and at King’s. G F Still, later Sir Frederic [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.432], under whom he served as children’s house physician, thought him the worst he had ever had except for Terence East [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.157]. He did two years as Sambrook medical registrar and, in a whirl of enthusiasm for medicine and research, subsequently spent six months in Freiburg as volunteer assistant to Aschoff. In the same year he was made junior physician at King’s, and morbid anatomist and medical tutor, as well as vice-dean. As vice-dean he was largely responsible for the completion of the medical school’s buildings.

He was devoted to King’s and was made full physician in 1938 and offered the deanship, but he gave it all up to become sub-dean of the new Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith. His first duty was to run a central office in London and try to coordinate all postgraduate teaching in the capital with the Postgraduate Medical School. At the outbreak of the second world war he took charge of the children’s wards in the hospital, ran the Home Guard, and gradually took over the work of the School until the retirement of the dean, Colonel Proctor, in 1946.

With his secretary, Connie O’Driscoll, Newman - now dean -reorganized the administration of the School, obtained hutted accommodation for new laboratories and enrolled postgraduate students in numbers never envisaged before. Realizing that the School, built in 1935, had been underfunded and was too small, he became the coordinator for all the necessary new buildings - a lecture theatre complex (the Wolfson building opened in 1961), the Medical Research Council cyclotron unit and radiochemical laboratories (1955) and the new School itself (the Commonwealth building, 1966). By the time he retired in 1965 and was made a CBE, the Royal Postgraduate Medical School had assumed not only a premier role in British medical education and research but also internationally, especially within the Commonwealth.

During this period he had found time to serve as a governor of St Clement Dane’s Grammar School, next door to the hospital, eventually becoming chairman - an association which spanned nearly 40 years.

When Sir Charles Dodds [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.151] became president of the College in 1962, Charles Newman was an obvious choice to succeed him as Harveian Librarian, an office he graced for seventeen years. In his witty after-dinner speeches he always contrived to find something fresh to say of an exhibition that might not have been changed; he presided over the move from Pall Mall East, and was generous in his donations to the library, almost doubling for example the College holdings of editions of Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio medici.

His association with the College had begun in 1926 with his appointment as Murchison scholar; he was the first of the new ‘young-doctor’ type of assistant registrar, 1933-38,, Goulstonian lecturer in 1933, and a member of the Younger Fellows Club, which he helped to establish. He was the first Linacre Fellow, 1966, delivered a notable Harveian Oration in 1973, and the first FitzPatrick lectures in 1954-55, and again in 1968. The first of the last named made a fascinating book, Evolution of medical education in the nineteenth century. New York, Oxford University Press, 1957. His only other book was Medical emergencies, London, J&A Churchill, - a pioneer work which went through three editions (1931, 1937 and 1946) - but he was the author of many papers which reflected his wide-ranging interests.

Medical history was one of his interests and involved him in membership of the council of the section of the history of medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine, he was also honorary treasurer of the Society 1946-50, and president of the Osier Club. He was a founder member and later president of the British Society of Gastroenterology and a leading figure in the Association of Physicians. He was a regular attender at the conferences of the Royal Archaeological Institution and served on its council. Mediaeval architecture, painting, instrumental music and claret number among his other interests.

Although he was twice married Charles Newman had no children of his own. His first wife, whom he married in 1952, was Phyllis Bloomfield; she had previously been married to a wool merchant. Six years after she died of repeated thromboses and aphasia in 1965, he married Anne Stallard who had had five children by a previous marriage. She died in 1982. Newman always thought that he had married two of the most beautiful women in Britain.

Short, dapper and full of energy, Charles Newman always wore a bow tie and wing collar; and when he came to his office at the College, through the reading room, the trilby which he wore perched on the back of his head seemed to grow shabbier and shabbier. His sense of humour was infectious and never far below the surface. He used to say he talked too much, probably because he preferred to do everything for himself, even to the point of making his own underclothes. He loved the country but disliked sports and games; was a good shot but hated killing. He was an enthusiastic Freemason and was greatly honoured by them. He was active almost to the end, when his health began to deteriorate and his perennial boyishness and sparkle left him. The end came suddenly, when he was in hospital for physiotherapy to help his walking. His stepchildren said he was a lovely man.

L M Payne

[The Times, 29 Aug 1989;The Independent, 1 Sept 1989; Lancet, 1989,2,754; Cumberland Evening Star, 8 Apr 1967; World Medicine,18 Apr 1967; Audio Tape]

(Volume IX, page 391)

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