Lives of the fellows

George Oglethorpe Richardson

b.31 January 1913 d.26 March 1984
MB BChir Cantab(1937) MA MD(1942) MRCP(1943) FRCP(1959)

George Richardson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was the fourth son of a prominent dental surgeon, who was chairman of the representative council of the British Dental Association. George died suddenly, though not altogether unexpectedly, for he had severe angina.

He was educated at Durham School, St John’s College, Cambridge, and in clinical medicine at Newcastle. During this time he grew up to be a tall, fair, somewhat fastidious and well-dressed young man, a good tennis player and a keen cricketer.

After house jobs at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, and at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, he trained in pathology in Dible’s [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.149] department at the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith. On the outbreak of war in 1939 he was ‘evacuated’ to look after the pathology department at Hillingdon Hospital. Later he returned to Newcastle, where he married Jean Carrick. There he worked in the department of pathology under, and at times at odds with, Bernard Shaw. At this time he collected material for his MD thesis on the subject of renal artery occlusion in essential hypertension, but then felt he must join the armed forces. It was as well that he had written and submitted his thesis (with success) for when he left to join the RAFVR his renal artery specimens, along with others that he had carefully collected, were ordered to be incinerated. In the RAF he worked for and obtained in 1943 the MRCP London. He became a graded specialist in medicine and served in this capacity both at home and in India.

After he was demobilized he went as a medical registrar to the Newcastle General Hospital, and was soon appointed a consultant physician at that hospital. During his years there he ran a most efficient general medical unit, and also started a diabetic clinic which soon became the largest in the region. He made a number of notable contributions, mainly on the subject of diabetes mellitus. Essentially he was a first class general physician who was devoted to his patients, as they were to him.

Intensely loyal to his hospital, and determined to enhance its standing and reputation, he soon became involved in hospital and local medical politics, and his was an important influence in bringing the General Hospital fully into the University of Newcastle’s group of teaching hospitals - before the disastrous reorganization of the National Health Service in 1974. For many years he was personally responsible for the teaching of internal medicine to the University’s dental students.

Richardson was elected a Fellow of the College in 1959. After serving his apprenticeship as an examiner in internal medicine for the London Conjoint Board, he was appointed examiner by the College in 1968 and served as such until 1978. He was a councillor from 1969-72.

Many of those who had to negotiate with Richardson did not find him at all an easy man. He had decided views and not much time for those whose standards he considered lower than his own, or who were thought by him to be self-seekers. On the other hand he would support to the full those whom he admired. This search for the best, if not the perfect, was also exemplified in his domestic life by a continuous replacement of fireplaces and other heating appliances, and by a succession of new lawnmowers - he insisted on beautifully maintained and weed free turf. These foibles were endearing rather than the reverse, for he was apparently concerned for the general good, was not a zealot, and had a real sense of humour, evinced by his enjoyment when his leg was pulled about his various eccentricities.

At a comparatively early age he developed severe hypertension, in spite of which he led a rewarding and productive life. This was partly due to the efficacy of modern therapy when carefully and somewhat obsessively followed, but also to Richardson’s ability to encapsulate this part of his life, for neither this nor any of his concomitant disabilities were allowed, to the limit of physical endurance, to interfere with his activities. Nobody who was not very close to him could have guessed how much he suffered from his very considerable handicaps.

George was a devoted family man, having two sons and a daughter -all themselves with children; very much the shepherd of his flock. He retired to a Yorkshire village and was active in local community affairs. He owned some two acres of land, which he and his wife tended with loving care. In return the land produced ample fuel for the sequence of wood burning appliances which he installed year by year in his sitting-room.

Sir George Smart

[Brit.med.J., 1984,288,1315]

(Volume VIII, page 411)

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