Lives of the fellows

Wilfred John Pearson

b.23 June 1884 d.27 June 1957
MC(1917) DSO(1918) BA Oxon(1907) MA Oxon(1911) MB BCh Oxon(1911) DM Oxon(1919) MRCP(1919) FRCP(1928)

Wilfred Pearson was a man of great height and of commanding presence, a crusader of the past in bravery and gentleness, and of the future in ideas far in advance of those of his generation. He was born at Reddington Lodge, Hampstead, the son of Charles Fellows Pearson and his wife, Eliza Anne Fisher Williams. He was educated at Rugby, University College, Oxford, and University College Hospital, where he had been house surgeon to Herbert Barker and house physician to Risien Russell and was resident medical officer on the outbreak of World War I.

His decorations and his zest brought him a house staff appointment from which he escaped to return to active service, so that he was already a legend to the students of his parent hospital when he returned to it in 1927 as the first physician who would devote himself entirely to the specialty of paediatrics. In order to do so Pearson had to resign his post in the children’s department of Charing Cross to which he had been appointed in 1922, but was able to remain on the staff of Great Ormond Street, which he had joined in 1920. For twenty years he did great work for the University College Hospital Medical School of which he was vice-dean from 1935 to 1941.

Increasing ill health forced his retirement from Great Ormond Street in 1949. The great drive and administrative ability which brought fame to his children’s department were considered to fit him for the arduous work of group officer to sector 4 of the London Emergency Medical Service from 1940 to 1946, but the concentration on administration was ill-suited to his essentially clinical interests, and doubtless was the cause of the hypercritical attitude which became active dislike of many of his associates.

Those who knew the true Wilfred Pearson were distressed to see ideas become obsessions and obsessions delusions,that slowly destroyed the image of the ‘parfit gentil knight’ that had been his to generations of students. In 1909 he married Charlotte Warrack; they had two daughters.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1957, 2, 47; Lancet, 1957, 2, 50; Times, 28 June 1957.]

(Volume V, page 326)

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