Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Beeson (Sir) Noad

b.25 March 1900 d.24 May 1987
KB(1970) MB ChM Sydney(1924) MRCP(1929) FRACP(1938) FRCP(1948) MD Sydney(1953) Hon FRCPE(1967) Hon FACP(1964) Hon D Litt Singapore(1973)

Kenneth Beeson Noad, always known to his friends as ‘Bob’, was born in Maitland in 1900 and received his early education there. He graduated in medicine at Sydney University and did his residency training at Sydney Hospital, the Royal Hospital for Women and the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children. He then went to London for postgraduate training, 1928-29, and gained his membership of the College. Once back in Sydney, Bob was befriended by the distinguished Sydney physician Alan Holmes-á-Court [Munk's Roll, Vol.V,p.l97] who was impressed by the young physician’s abilities and often left him in charge of his practice when he was overseas.

The year 1935 was an important one for Bob. On 24 January he married Eileen Ryan who remained his devoted wife throughout his life. Regrettably, they had no children and he would have loved children dearly. He had a delightfully soft side to his nature which rejoiced in children and small animals. And it was in that year also that he became an honorary assistant physician on the staff of the Sydney Hospital. This hospital remained thereafter the centre of Bob Noad’s professional life and he became honorary physician there in 1948. His other great love was the Royal Australasian College of Physicians which was founded in 1938, of which Bob was a foundation Fellow and which he served faithfully and well all his professional life.

As with so many others, the second world war interrupted Bob’s professional progress but he threw himself into the war effort with characteristic enthusiasm. He served with the 5th AGH in Greece and, later, with the 11th AGH in Alexandria where he was officer in charge of the medical division under the command of George Stening. He later served in New Guinea and on his return to Australia he commanded the medical division at Concord. He remained as consultant physician on the staff of the Repatriation General Hospital for many years after the war and gained his MD for work he did on infectious disease in the Middle East.

For 15 years, from 1951-66, Bob was on the council of the RACP. He was on the board of censors 1948-62, and censor in chief from 1958-62. He served on the executive commitee 1958-1966, and was president of the college from 1962-64. He had always been interested in extending Australian facilities for medical training to the countries of the South East Asian region and he was instrumental in organizing courses in 1963, ’64 and ’66. These courses were run jointly by the College Commission for South East Asia and the University of Singapore, through the Colombo Plan. Students were able to take the MRACP examination in Singapore and then pursue further practical training in Australia. It was a broad and imaginative initiative which served greatly to advance the reputation of Australian medicine and the prestige of Australia in this region. For his efforts, Bob was awarded the honorary degree of D Litt by the University of Singapore in 1973.

Early in his professional career Bob Noad acquired a keen interest in neurology and, though he always retained a high reputation in general medicine, he was one of the first neurologists in Sydney and his opinions in this discipline were widely valued. Among his friends abroad, he counted famous neurological teachers such as F M R Walshe, later Sir Francis [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.448], J S Collier [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.446] and G M Holmes, later Sir Gordon [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.195]. Bob founded the neurology clinic at the Sydney Hospital and was honorary director of the Northcott Neurological Centre. He was a brilliant teacher himself, with a rare ability to make the essential features of diseases and clinical problems stand out clearly against a background of confusing detail. He was the student supervisor at Sydney Hospital for many years and generations of physicians in training delighted to sit at his feet and to follow his ward rounds. It was very encouraging to hear his praise ‘Good boy!’ when one came up with the right answer.

Bob Noad’s writings were many and varied. He had a delightful, limpid literary style interspersed with references to the classics. His papers covered topics such as cerebellar atrophy and the neurological features of tsutsugamushi fever; the ocular features of carotid artery disease, and optic atrophy. Typical of his broad interest in medicine was the important article he wrote, with Douglas Miller, on ‘Renal stones and hyperparathyroidism’, published in 1940 in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery. This was pioneering work. As well as his interest in general reading, Bob was devoted to the latest neurological literature and the newest ideas. He once asked a tremulous student in the membership examination ‘Now, Sir, tell me what you know about pachymeningitis cervicalis circumscripta’. ‘Nothing, Sir’ the student replied. ‘Neither do we’, said Bob. It is reported that the student passed.

Over the years Bob Noad acquired a reputation and medical friendships not only in his own country but also abroad in Europe, Asia and the USA. He loved to travel which he did frequently, including brief visits to distant country towns in his own country for consultations and opinions. The latter journeys were made in small 4-seater aircraft and on one occasion he was returning from the country when they ran into a heavy fog. The windscreen wiper motor had faded and the pilot had to put his hand out of the window to push the wiper blade to and fro. When the weather cleared, he confessed he had lost his way. Bob, undaunted, produced a road and rail map of NSW from his brief case. The pilot flew low over several railway stations to ascertain their names, they located these on the map and followed the railway lines back to Sydney.

Bob was president of the Medico-Legal Society in Australia from 1964-68 and on the organizing panel of the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences, later being vice-president and honorary life member. Both he and his wife were tireless in their hospitality to overseas medical visitors, especially during the 25th anniversary celebrations of the RACP. His beautiful home in Cranbrook Road, Bellevue Hill, bore witness to his interest in art, literature and music. At one stage, he was a passably good pianist. In 1967 Jan Brod [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.53] and his wife visited Australia from Prague and Bob, despite initial misgivings about communist countries, was a wonderful host to this great man and his wife, even acting as baby-sitter.

Although he retired from public hospital practice in 1960, Bob remained active in postgraduate affairs - these were the years of his presidency of the RACP and of his interests in South East Asia. He also remained active in his private practice. He was knighted in 1970 for his services to medicine. In later years his memory began to fail but his sense of humour never deserted him He had a loud chuckle, a ready wit and a keen interest in everything around him.

W H Wolfenden

(Volume IX, page 393)

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