Lives of the fellows

Hubert Edward Spencer Pearson

b.21 October 1909 d.15 November 1985
MRCS LRCP(1933) MB BS Lond(1933) MRCP(1935) MD(1936) FRCP(1963)

Hubert Herbert Spencer, known from childhood as Bob, was born at Leighton Buzzard, the son of Reginald Spencer Pearson, a general practitioner. He was educated at Berkhamsted School, where the subsequently famous Greene brothers were also pupils [C R Greene, Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.228] and their father was headmaster. Bob graduated from St Thomas’s Hospital, becoming clinical assistant in the ECG department where he developed a lifelong interest in cardiology. He was a member of the Cardiac Society of Great Britain. The following year he joined the LCC hospital service and, in 1939, became senior assistant medical officer at Lambeth Hospital. From 1945-47 he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, in the Canal Zone, where he developed a deep interest in horses. In 1947 he was appointed by the LCC as senior physician to the Archway Hospital Group. The following year, with the inception of the NHS, he became consultant physician to the Group, now renamed the Whittington Hospital.

Bob Pearson was recognized by his colleagues as being a most able physician. He was particularly respected for his generous and conciliatory temperament, which helped smooth differences that arose between senior clinical staff and administration during the development of the unification of the Whittington Hospital from the three Archway Group hospitals.

He was a very reserved and private individual, and a man of few words. He gave dedicated care to his patients but acknowledged his own limitations in verbal communication with them; confessing that his Great Dane hound, which he brought into the ward on his Christmas round, made a better job of it. However, his quiet, courteous manner concealed deeply held opinions reflecting his strong religious convictions; he was a devout Roman Catholic.

Bob was a lover of animals, especially horses and dogs, and for many years he bred native ponies. Local GPs recall him doing domiciliary visits with bags of feed in the back of his car. He was also fascinated by language; with a particular interest in Spanish literature, Spanish poetry of the 17th century and earlier being his favourite bedtime reading. He also took delight in the English language and was determined always to use it with the greatest clarity.

The several strands and themes of Bob Pearson’s personality and interests came together in his work as medical adviser to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association appeals tribunal. He had always shown a particular concern for the rehabilitation of patients after myocardial infarction, and gained a detailed knowledge of the physical demands placed on them by their particular jobs. For over 25 years, until his death, he provided expert medical opinion opposing DHSS decisions. Thanks to his dedication to the disadvantaged individual, and his lucid advocacy, many members and widows of BLESMA gained a pension or had it increased. For many years the DHSS rejected Pearson’s view that there was a link between amputations and cardiovascular disorders but they accepted it in 1979 with the publication of the Hrubec Ryder report from America. This work took up much of his time after his retirement in 1969, and just before he died he completed a booklet for the amputee and his helper entitled Better Health for the Amputee, sponsored by BLESMA. It is characteristic of Bob’s modesty and reserve that, for a quarter of a century, such an important contribution appears to have been unknown to his colleagues.

Bob Pearson married Ruth Monica Keating, daughter of a factory manager, in 1935, and they had a son and two daughters.

BI Hoffbrand

(Volume VIII, page 373)

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