Lives of the fellows

Eric Gordon Oastler

b.6 November 1903 d.14 February 1990
TDC(1942) MB ChB Glasg(1926)BA Oxon(1928) MRCP(1931) FRFPS Glasg(1932) MA Oxon(1934) FRCP(1940) FRCPE(1957) FRCPG(1962)

Eric Oastler was born in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, the son of a general practitioner. He had one sister who also became a doctor. Eric was educated at Larchfield preparatory school in Helensburgh, then at Rugby, and studied medicine at Glasgow University where he graduated with commendation. He then took a BA with first class honours in physiology at Balliol College, Oxford, proceeding to the MA in 1934. Further academic distinctions followed included the Fellowship of all three Royal Colleges, of which he later became an examiner for the membership of all three.

He was appointed professor of physiology at St Mungo’s College, Glasgow, in 1932 and held this post until 1944. His first staff appointment was as an extra physician to the outpatient department of Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1931, with promotion to assistant physician to the outpatients department in 1933 and to assistant physician in 1934. Following the award of a Rockefeller travelling medical fellowship, the academic year 1934-35 was spent in the United States, working with Professor Means at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, where he was resident fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School. During this time he pursued his interest in endocrinology, particularly in female and adrenal endocrinology, and this field was to be the one in which his pioneer work will be remembered at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Eric was a member of the OTC at Glasgow University and was a Territorial Officer for 14 years. He was called up at the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, served in the United Kingdom, France and the Middle East, and was successively medical specialist in the RAMC, officer in charge of a medical division, and medical consultant with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1942 and was invalided home in 1944. In 1955 he was appointed honorary consultant physician to Scottish Command.

After the war he returned to Glasgow Royal Infirmary as assistant lecturer and assistant physician in the University department of medicine and head of the department of endocrinology. He continued in the latter post until his retirement in 1967. In 1947 he was appointed physician in charge of wards at the Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, with the additional task of preparing for the arrival of medical students in 1950. Characteristically he worked hard at this and was successful in the early development of the teaching hospital. He became an honorary lecturer in clinical medicine at the University of Glasgow and retained this appointment until he retired. Other hospital appointments during this period were consulting physician and endocrinologist at the Royal Samaritan Hospital for Women, Glasgow, and consulting physician at the Royal Beatson Memorial Hospital, Glasgow. In addition he had a private consulting practice.

He moved back to the Royal Infirmary in 1956 as physician in charge of wards and he continued in this post for the rest of his professional life, being appointed an honorary consulting physician in 1967. He was generally regarded as an excellent clinician, a respected teacher and an able administrator. For 11 years he was a member of the Scottish Health Services Council and was chairman for five years. Other activities included membership of the board of management for Glasgow Northern Hospitals and membership of the Western Regional Hospital Board, 1955-61, and vice-chairman, 1959-60. Societies included the Association of Physicians of the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Scottish Society for Experimental Medicine (rounder member), the Scottish Society of Physicians (president 1967-68) and the Glasgow Endocrine Club (founder member). He also served on the Council of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Eric was very much a family man. He married Nora Noad, the daughter of a tea planter, and they had two sons, Christopher and Michael, in whom - and later in their families and five grandchildren -he was much absorbed. He enjoyed walking and some golf. His great hobby was collecting pewter, especially Scottish, and he was a member of the Pewter Society. He also had many other interests, including travel, art, antique furniture, gardening, reading and gastronomy. In the last of these he was an enthusiast with a fine palate, and he was particularly knowledgeable about sherry and claret. At all times he dressed immaculately, and he was neat, tidy and conscientious in everything that he did.

On 31 October 1967 he retired to the charming Cotswold village of Stanton where he and Nora had a beautiful old house. This was a perfect setting for his pewter collection, furniture, books and pictures, and there was also a large garden to which he devoted much time and care. Their friends were always welcome at the Old Manor Farm House and could be assured of warm hospitality and interesting and stimulating conversation.

Eric Oastler was a very modest man about his own attainments and few who met him in one aspect of his life were aware of his distinction in other spheres. He led a very full life and was happy in his long retirement. His wife and two sons survived him.

A M Sutherland
Sir Abraham Goldberg

[Brit.med.J., 1990,301,288]

(Volume IX, page 396)

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