Lives of the fellows

Reginald Elson Rewell

b.3 September 1917 d.21 July 1996
MB BS Lond(1941) MRCS LRCP(1941) MRCP(1942) MD(1943) FRCPath(1964) FRCP(1970)

Reginald Elson Rewell was a consultant pathologist based in Liverpool. ‘Rex’, the son of a schoolmaster, was born in Thornton Heath in Surrey during the First World War. He received his early schooling from his father and was then educated at Whitgift. He went on to London University and Guy’s Hospital, graduating in 1941. After house jobs in Southampton, and under the influence and guidance of George Payling Wright [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.461], he became a trainee in pathology at Guy’s Hospital. He obtained the MRCP in 1942 and his MD in 1943 with the aim of being graded a specialist in pathology when called up. However he was rejected for military service because of his poor eyesight and continued to work in the Guy’s Hospital sector, then based at Farnborough. In 1945 he was appointed pathologist/parasitologist to the Zoological Society of London. Later he became an examiner in pathology for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and was elected a scientific fellow of the Zoological Society. It was during this period that he met Betty Jean Willis, an Australian musician and daughter of Rupert Willis [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.608]. They were married at Downe in 1946. Although Rex loved his work at the London Zoo, and published some thirty papers, mostly on comparative anatomy and veterinary pathology, the post paid only a modest honorarium, insufficient to support a wife and family and he sought an appointment in the newly established National Health Service.

In 1950 he was appointed consultant pathologist to the United Liverpool Hospitals and given charge of the laboratories at Liverpool Maternity Hospital, the Women s Hospital and Liverpool Children’s Hospital. Later under his guidance these were rationalized. Services for the Ear Nose and Throat Infirmary were added to the work-load and additional consultant staff recruited. An efficient cytological service was established. Rex was also a lecturer in clinical pathology at the University of Liverpool. He continued to contribute to the scientific literature and published two books: Obstetrical and gynaecological pathology for postgraduate students (Edinburgh/London, Livingstone, 1960) and Pathology of the upper respiratory tract (Edinburgh/London, Livingstone, 1963). He would have preferred to be remembered, however, for the help that he gave to his registrars in the preparation of their dissertations for higher degrees.

In 1956 he was made a visiting professor of pathology at the new National Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Madras under the Colombo plan. During a two year appointment he planned and developed a centre for clinical diagnostic and academic pathology. This for Rex was the highlight of his career. Always concerned for the peoples of the Third World, he developed an even greater appreciation of their problems, and the influence of this post continued through the rest of his life.

Rex had two main interests - his work and his family. He loved music and music-making and ably supported his wife in her musical career. He often accompanied her on the piano during her singing practice and played duets with her. Rex was an avid reader, his interests were catholic and his memory enviably retentive, so that his knowledge over a wide range of subjects was little short of encyclopaedic. He had an enormous enthusiasm for such diverse interests as botany and gardening, antique furniture and antiquarian books, ecclesiastical architecture and church organs, among many others. Apart from his professional writings, he wrote papers on such diverse subjects as European witchcraft and English 16th century houses.

Rex was a great lover of nature and the outdoors. With his wife, Betty, he rambled over the fields of Cheshire and the Peak District, the hills of North Wales, and latterly through the Golden Valley and hills of Herefordshire. Perhaps his interest in equestrian field sports derived from his maternal grandfather, George Scales, who had been a breeder and trainer of working horses. Rex was an experienced horseman and for many years rode with the Cheshire hunt. He had the unusual distinction of being the only adult male ever to be admitted as a patient to the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool. As a consultant he had the authority to admit himself, to a single room, when he developed haematuria following an accident on the hunting fields of Chester.

In retirement he and Betty took a special interest in the refurbishment of local churches. Together they also helped at the Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral, where Rex’s wide knowledge of antiquarian books and church history, and his experience as a teacher, made him an admirable steward. A

Trevor Willis

[Brit.med.J., 1996,313,812]

(Volume X, page 414)

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