Lives of the fellows

Francis Ray Bettley

b.18 August 1909 d.17 December 1993
TD MRCS LRCP(1932) MB BS Lond(1932) MD(1935) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1948)

Francis Bettley was born in London, the second son of Francis James Bettley, a business executive. He was educated at the Whitgift School, University College and University College Hospital, London. Following qualification he had two appointments as house physician at UCH and then decided to specialize in dermatology. He was awarded the Radcliffe Crocker scholarship and in 1936 he studied in Vienna and Strasbourg, where he came under the influence of Worringer and also developed a love for France and an expert knowledge of the French language. He returned to the UK in 1937 and was appointed dermatologist and venereologist at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary.

As a serving officer in the Territorial Army he was immediately mobilized when war was declared in 1939, being then TADMS of the 53rd (Welsh) Division - a post he held until 1940. He was subsequently posted to various military hospitals in the UK and the Middle East and from 1944-45 was adviser in dermatology and venereology to East African Command.

On return to civilian life he resumed his post at Cardiff Royal Infirmary. He was appointed physician to the skin department at the Middlesex Hospital, London, in 1946, and also physician to St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin in 1948. At the Middlesex, despite a heavy clinical workload, he carried out several research projects, including the effects of soaps and synthetic detergents on the skin and their role in the production of primary irritant dermatitis. He also worked on the effect of various agents on insensible water loss through the epidermis. He was a very successful chairman of the medical committee at the Middlesex at a time when this was an important and influential position. Bettley was a most agreeable colleague and was greatly respected, having many close friends at both his hospitals.

Among his many publications was a textbook, Skin diseases in general practice, London, Spottiswoode, 1949, much used by medical students. He was a fellow and president of the St John’s Hospital Dermatological Society and at one time president of the dermatological section of the Royal Society of Medicine. He also presided over a very successful annual meeting of the British Association of Dermatologists in 1972, to which German dermatologists were invited for the first time since the second world war. From 1950-60 he was honorary editor of the British Journal of Dermatology and dean of the Institute of Dermatology, British Postgraduate Medical Federation, University of London, from 1957-59.

Francis Bettley was a gifted amateur artist and also did some sculpting. Many of his water colours painted during his many visits to France and the Canary Islands - visiting the latter by banana boat -were displayed in the somewhat drab surroundings of the outpatients department at St John’s Hospital. He also made a number of pencil drawings of local inhabitants during his wartime stay in Egypt. He was frequently consulted on artistic matters and advised the College on the design of the Parkes Weber medal, established in 1959 and awarded triennally ever since.

He was an inveterate traveller and, apart from his transatlantic journeys, he frequently travelled through France by moped. After retirement he sailed to Australia as ship’s surgeon on several occasions. He later became civilian consultant dermatologist to the British Army of the Rhine, based at Bielefeld, and for many months commuted to the UK each weekend.

He married Jean, daughter of Archibald McIntyre, in 1951. They had two children, a son and a daughter. Their daughter died in adolescence and Francis adopted his wife’s daughter by a previous marriage.

R H Meara

(Volume IX, page 39)

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