Lives of the fellows

John Wynne Pierce

b.8 August 1913 d.24 January 1988
MRCS LRCP(1936) MB BS Lond(1936) MRCP(1938) MD(1939) DMRD(1948) FRCP(1968) FFR(1970) FRCR(1975)

John Pierce was always known as ‘Benjie’; he was a greatly loved figure and a radiologist of the chest with an international stature. Born the son of a doctor, he had a typical doctor’s upbringing: Epsom College and St Thomas’s Hospital. Following house jobs at St Thomas’s, he became house physician at the Brompton Hospital, where he found his life’s interest, and later house physician at Great Ormond Street where he met his wife, Olga David. He served in the RAF during the war and, perforce, became interested in radiology as he was put in charge of a mass radiography unit. On demobilization he trained at UCH as a radiologist, and was appointed consultant radiologist at St Thomas’s in 1950, and at the Brompton Hospital in 1952. With George Simon [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.536] he became the authority on the chest x-ray and contributed much new knowledge, particularly in immunological disease of the lungs. Benjie was a great teacher and formed one of the clique around E P Sharpey-Schafer [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.372] who revolutionised the medical side of St Thomas’s in the 1950s and ’60s. Benjie also took a great interest in gastrointestinal radiology, and gave an expert opinion on oesophageal disease. Not surprisingly he became a leader of the new wave of innovative investigators who were as much a home at the bedside as in his department.

Benjie was a founder member of the Fleischner Society, an Anglo-American club dedicated to radiology of the chest and supported by teaching sessions in Europe and the USA. He became a well known personality and a recognized expert on both sides of the Atlantic.

He was very well read, enjoying all forms of literature - from Tolstoy to Wodehouse. He also had a deep love of music and ballet and was a regular attender at Covent Garden; he had known Anthony Dowell, the dancer, since childhood. As he grew older, he matured into a delightful character, with his white beard and cherubic face, and was usually surrounded by good company; dispensing good conversation and fine wine.

Benjie was at his best when teaching informally, his humanity and humour were much in evidence as he gently mocked the pompous and stiff necked. Passionately anti-bureaucratic, he was a man of liberal thought and attitudes.

He lived all his life in his father’s house in Guildford, where he weas a devoted husband and father. Unfortunately, heart disease limited him in his retirement, but the superb views from the house gave him great pleasure and he enjoyed the unstinting support of his wife Olga.

B Clarke

(Volume VIII, page 380)

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