Lives of the fellows

Maurice Aubrey Partridge

b.23 October 1910 d.29 June 1984
LMSSA Lond(1936) MA BM BCh Oxon(1937) DPM(1946) MRCP(1960) FRCP(1965)

Maurice Partridge was educated at Shrewsbury School and Balliol College, Oxford. He did his clinical studies at Guy’s, for which he retained much affection and where he lived in bachelor rooms in the Warden’s House for many years, although a consultant at St George’s. After Guy’s he trained at the Phipps Clinic (Johns Hopkins) where, like many British psychiatrists of that generation, he was deeply influenced by the psychobiological approach of Adolf Meyer. Following service in the RNVR during the war, where he rose to the rank of surgeon lieutenant commander, he spent a short time at St Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton, before his appointment to St George’s Hospital, where he was one of a triumvirate with Desmond Curran (q.v.) and Sir Paul Mallinson. These men made St George’s pre-eminent in psychiatry in the post war years; with a well developed department of psychiatry within a teaching hospital at a time when similar hospitals were in a string-and-sealing-wax stage. Maurice was only involved in one major research project, a follow-up of 300 patients after prefrontal leucotomy, but that was splendidly carried out and led to an influential publication, Pre-frontal leucotomy, Springfield,Ill.,Thomas, 1950, the only one of its kind at that time. He was co-author with Curran of their textbook Psychological Medicine, Edinburgh:New York, Churchill Livingstone, 1980, in which he managed to incorporate some very amusing footnotes.

At St George’s, Partridge was a popular teacher, and he and his two consultant colleagues provided lectures on psychiatry to all comers, at Hyde Park Corner, alternating with neurology given by Denis Williams and Hamilton Paterson.

Maurice Partridge was an extremely amusing man: dry, ironic, and with a superb gift of timing when telling stories. He became a well known after-dinner speaker in rather limited circles, because he was basically a shy man and turned down invitations to larger gatherings. Everyone called him ‘Bird’, and his signature when writing to friends was a little wavy line which looked like the outline of a seagull. His holidays were always spent in extraordinarily remote places. Long before there were package tours to the Himalayas, ‘Bird’ was already sending cards and letters from places like Nepal.

His appearance was a little eccentric. He was short and rotund, untidy, usually wore thick tweed suits even in summer, and always had a large, coloured handkerchief in his breast pocket which he used to flourish and then mop his brow. He looked rather like Pickwick, but plump rather than fat. He was a good squash player and took part in matches with the students, and others. On the hottest days he would wear a white sweater on the court, and on occasions would leave the court between sets and return wearing an extra sweater; which was usually worth two or three points against a student opponent.

Maurice was a kindly and cultured man, helpful to his juniors, much respected as a clinician and colleague, and his death has saddened many.

PB Storey

[Brit.med.J., 1984,289,192; The Times, 6 July 1984]

(Volume VIII, page 372)

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