"b.16 Apr 1900 d.30 June 1978
Life Peer (1967) Bart (1959) MB ChB Sheff (1921) MD (1923) MRCP (1925) FRCP (1935) MSc Manch (1949) PRCP (1957 — 1962)†"
As the man mainly responsible for the move of the College house from Pall Mall East to Regent’s Park, Robert Platt has an assured place as one of the College’s great presidents. He was also the first wholetime professor to hold the office; the first president to live and work outside London, and the man mainly responsible for the College’s renewed and greatly increased interest in postgraduate education and in preventive medicine in the second half of the twentieth century.
He was born in the parish of St Marylebone, the second son in a family unconnected hitherto with science or medicine, but infected as he himself said, with ‘music, the stage and the wanderlust’. His father, William Platt, worked for some time in the family wholesale woollen business (though probably more interested in music and other pursuits) but later with his wife Susan Jane, née Willis (daughter of William Willis, a much travelled Scot who eventually settled in Forfar), founded a co-educational boarding school in Grindleford, Derbyshire. Susan Willis was the first woman to become one of HM Inspectors of Schools. An uncle was a close friend of Keir Hardie, and Robert was a cousin, through his father’s mother’s family, of Portia Holman FRCP (q.v.), who was involved in the Spanish Civil War.
Robert was educated at King Alfred’s School, Hampstead; at his parents’ school at Grindleford and at Sheffield University, where he qualfied MB BCh (with two gold medals) in 1921 and became an MD in 1923. He took the MRCP in 1925 and was elected FRCP in 1935. In later years he received many honorary degrees including Hon LLD Sheffield 1959, Belfast 1959, Manchester, 1969, and Hon MD Bristol 1959. He was created Baronet in 1959 and became a Life Peer as Baron Platt of Grindleford in 1967.
He was appointed assistant physician to the Royal Infirmary Sheffield in 1931 (at the age of 31) and full physician in 1934, rapidly acquiring a considerable private practice. He was later to describe this as ‘professionally the most satisfactory period of life’.
Platt served in the RAMC as a lieutenant colonel, OC Medical Division, from 1941 to 1944 in Britain, North Africa and Italy, and records that his promotion to brigadier consultant physician, Southern Command India, did not greatly please him, for after his experiences in North Africa and Italy he found the quasi-peacetime atmosphere of Indian clubs and messes to be distasteful. Others who served in India remember him as an energetic and dedicated consultant physician, if a somewhat bedraggled brigadier.
Wartime service seemed to have converted Platt the successful consultant physician, to Platt the socialist and enthusiastic supporter of the NHS (who resigned from the BMA in 1947 and never rejoined), Platt the humanist and, after much heart searching, Platt the wholetime professor of medicine. He once said that he thought he was awarded the chair of medicine at Manchester in 1946 because he told the appointments committee that he was not sure whether he really wanted it.
When he arrived in Manchester the space allotted for his department contained only an ancient device for wet-cupping. He left behind a flourishing department respected by both clinicians and medical scientists, with a record of first class work in many fields. Platt himself will be remembered as the man who first proposed the ‘intact nephron hypothesis’ of the mechanism of chronic renal failure in his Lumleian lectures in 1952 (thus anticipating Bricker, to whom this is usually attributed); as the doughty contestant of his friend, Sir George Pickering, in their long controversy over the nature of benign hypertension, and as a pioneer in the application of genetics to medical problems.
Outside clinical medicine he was a man of wide and varied activities. Among other appointments he was a member of the Medical Research Council and later chairman of its Clinical Research Board; a member of the Roya"
(Volume VII, page 470)
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