Lives of the fellows

John Wakefield Platt

b.16 September 1925 d.24 February 1991
BA Oxon(1946) BM BCh(1948) MRCP(1954) DCH(1957) FRCP(1972)

John Platt was born at the home of his grandparents Ernest and Jesse Platt, velvet cutters, in Wilmslow, Cheshire. Their eldest son, Harry, later became Sir Harry Platt and president of the Royal College of Surgeons. John’s father, Percy Platt, who was a salesman in the cotton trade, had died six months before John’s birth. His mother, Doris Sophia, was the seventh child of Herbert and Ada Knott who spent their life in the cotton trade in Ashton-under-Lyme.

John was a sickly and atopic child, suffering from both asthma and skin problems. His sister remembers that she was upset by his constant coughing and recalls him in his cot with a blanket thrown over it and a steam kettle nearby, but his mother encouraged independence and later in his childhood he would go for long country walks and bicycle rides on his own. There were also family visits to the Lake District and he developed a lifelong love of the countryside.

At the age of nine years, he was sent to Cleveland House preparatory school in Yorkshire as his mother felt he would benefit from some male influence. He went on to Marlborough, followed by Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied medicine, his clinical studies being undertaken at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. During this time, he spent several climbing holidays in Switzerland and Norway and also spent some time in Skye and the Lake District.

After house posts at Bart’s, he decided to follow a career in paediatrics and was attracted by Sir James Spence [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.386] in Newcastle, where he undertook most of his training. In 1957 he spent a year at Great Ormond Street, London, followed by 15 months as a Fulbright travelling scholar at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, USA. John loved clinical medicine and was not the least bit interested in research. It was perhaps this attitude, and his love of mountains, which led him to the furthest reaches of the northern region. He became the first consultant paediatrician in Cumbria, initially covering the whole of Cumbria, later to be joined by a colleague in Carlisle while he concentrated on the far west coast. He steadily built up the paediatric service in west Cumbria, with enormous energy and a great deal of hard work.

He had married Mary James in 1949 and they had six children. He was helped enormously by his wife who founded a local playgroup and encouraged and developed his talents. John had a real empathy with children and an ability to communicate with them. His insight, example and enthusiasm encouraged many of his juniors to take up a career in paediatrics. He had a strong sense of family which made him a supporter of team work and companionship in the hospital. He was also a mediator among colleagues and a worthy leader of multidisciplinary groups concerned with the welfare of children in the hospital and local community.

He enjoyed his life in Cumbria, combining his work with a busy and happy family life. He carried on the family love of music, although he was more of a listener than a performer. It was a great sadness to him and all who knew him when Mary died in 1976 and left him with the six children.

When he retired in 1990 he planned to develop his love of music, art and his beloved Lake District. But, sadly, his retirement was to last only seven months when he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage soon after returning from a walk on the local fells.

A W Craft

[Brit.med.J., 1991,302,958]

(Volume IX, page 421)

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