Lives of the fellows

Max Leonard, Baron Rosenheim of Camden Rosenheim

b.15 March 1908 d.2 December 1972
Baron(1970) KBE(1967) CBE(1955) BA Cantab(1929) BChir(1932) MB(1933) MRCP(1934) MD(1938) FRCP(1941) PRCP(1966-1972) FRS(1972)

Max Rosenheim was born in Hampstead. His father, Ludovic Rosenheim (1869-1915), the son of a wine merchant in Wurzburg, had left Germany as a young man and was a naturalized British subject. He was a member of the London Stock Exchange but had wide interests and in his early years in London attended evening classes on chemistry, geology and allied subjects. A paternal uncle was Sigmund Otto Rosenheim, FRS. A great-uncle, Max Rosenheim, was a distinguished art collector and antiquarian living in England. His mother, who lived to be 90, dying in 1971, was the daughter of Karl Reichenbach of St Gall, Switzerland, a general practitioner who played an important part in the life of the community. Max had a sister, Adèle Helen, later Mrs Van Noorden, and a brother, Charles, who joined the Army in 1939, becoming a Major in the Welsh Regiment and being killed in action in 1945, gaining the MC posthumously.

Max’s schooling was at the The Hall in Hampstead from 1915-22, with some interruptions due to illness. Thence he went to Shrewsbury in 1922 with a scholarship and in 1926 to St John’s College, Cambridge, again as a scholar. He obtained first-class honours in the Natural Sciences Tripos Part I in 1929 and was awarded the Goldsmith Exhibition on entering University College Hospital Medical School. He gained the Junior Clinical medal and the Samuel Tuke medal, qualifying BChir, Cambridge, in 1932, proceeding to MB in 1933 and MD in 1938 when he was awarded the Raymond Horton Smith Prize. His house appointments were at University College Hospital (house surgeon to Professor C Choyce and house physician to Professor TR Elliott, FRS). He spent a year at the Westminster Hospital as assistant medical registrar, and then returned to UCH as medical registrar in 1936. The award of the Bilton Pollard Travelling Fellowship in 1939 took him to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was to work with Dr Fuller Albright, but the outbreak of war intervened and his time was cut short. On return home he became first assistant to the Medical Unit at University College Hospital under Sir Harold Himsworth, FRS, and took charge of the first year clinical students who had been evacuated to Cardiff. He subsequently returned to London for a short time at the height of the blitz and joined the RAMC in 1941. He saw service in Belfast and then as officer-in-charge, Medical Division, in various hospitals in countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe before going farther east, where he became consulting physician to Allied Land Forces South East Asia with the rank of brigadier. He travelled widely about the Far East and it was perhaps this experience which gave him an insight and concern into the health problems of developing countries and his wanderlust generally.

On release from the Army he became deputy director of the Medical Unit and honorary consultant physician to University College Hospital, and when Sir Harold Himsworth left to become secretary of the Medical Research Council, he was elected professor. His open postgraduate rounds were a great feature of his unit and earned a world wide reputation. It was said that in his unit he was like a father with his children, proud when they did well and not jealous. He produced a steady stream of well trained medical scientists, and continued active, though with a slightly reduced commitment, in his Chair throughout most of his Presidency.

In the College he was elected a Member in 1934 and a Fellow in 1941. Though appointed Goulstonian Lecturer in 1942 the lectures were not delivered due to his absence abroad. His subject was The treatment of urinary infections. He gave the Oliver Sharpey Lecture in 1954 on The Treatment of Severe Hypertension and the Lumleian Lecture in 1963 on Problems of Chronic Pyelonephritis. He was elected an examiner in 1949 and was on the MRCP Panel from 1957 to 1961. He was a Councillor from 1954 to 1956 and thus knew a good deal about the College and its workings when he was elected to the Presidency in April 1966. He was appointed CBE in 1955 and KBE in the New Year’s Honours List, 1967. His life Peerage came in 1970 and his FRS in 1972.

The College had moved to its new home in 1964 and the greatly increased opportunities of the new building were beginning to be realized when he took office. There was a tremendous increase in all aspects of the College’s activities and work during his Presidency. Medicine in Europe was already of growing importance and the College was to increase its interest during his time. He made all aspects of training his concern, whether it was in devising machinery for the recommendation of posts as suitable for consultant training, or in the shaping (and eventual production in booklet form) of training schedules. The Teach-Ins, originally intended as a College contribution to the continuing education of junior hospital staff, were begun early in his time, and there were experiments with other forms of presentation, notably ‘Reviews from the Schools’ and later ‘Growing Points in Medicine’. Christmas Lectures designed to be of interest to the children of Fellows and Members and others of similar ages were introduced. Various celebrations took place in 1968 to commemorate the 450th Anniversary of the College’s receiving a Charter, one of them being a combined meeting with the American College of Physicians in Boston. It was his singularly happy idea that the College’s presentation to the American College should take the form of a Georgian Silver Tea Caddy.

Liaison with the Colleges in Edinburgh and Glasgow was beginning in the early 60’s and increased considerably during his time. The three Colleges began to meet formally, concern at the need to bring about reforms in many aspects of the MRCP examinations being a focal point of interest. By the end of his Presidency there was a Common Part I, a Common MRCP Part II and the MRCP(UK) had taken the place of the individual Memberships of the three Colleges. Part I and the written sections of Part II (until the discontinuation of the essay type questions) were able to be written at several centres in England and Wales, and Part I in some overseas centres. Committees were set up to make recommendations about admission to the Fellowship and with the opportunities provided by the greater space, and recognizing the fact that the establishment of physicians all over the country had grown considerably since the advent of the National Health Service, there was considerable increase in the number of Fellows elected each year. The total number of Fellows went up by something like a thousand during his years of office. An organization of College Regional Advisers, composed of Fellows resident in the various NHS regions of the country, to report both ways about College matters and generally keep the College informed of events in the regions, was brought into being.

In addition to the periodic reports of the Standing Committees of the College on various specialist subjects, Committees appointed ad hoc reported on certain specific matters, for instance boxing and atmospheric pollution, and, more technically, on cardiological problems, with a combined committee from the RCP and the Royal College of Surgeons. Taking up a point in the Report of the Royal Commission on Medical Education, encouragement was given to all interested to form a Faculty of Community Medicine, and the pattern of a Faculty jointly based in the three Royal Colleges of Physicians was agreed and the Faculty established. Committees issued reports on clinical immunology, accident and emergency services, nephrology and the district general hospital. A joint committee with the Royal College of General Practitioners reported on the place of the general practitioner in the hospital. Conferences, often including one of the College Lectures, were arranged to take place in centres outside London. Hardly a weekend passed during his Presidency but he was opening or attending a meeting at a postgraduate medical centre.

Outside the College Max Rosenheim was active in every way before, during and for the short while after his Presidency. He was a member of the World Health Organization team visiting Indonesia in 1953, and of the Colombo Plan visiting India in 1955. He was visiting Professor at New York State University Medical School and at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1956, and in 1958 the Arthur Sims Travelling Professor going to Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. He acted as external examiner in Jamaica, Nigeria and Khartoum. He was Consultant Adviser in General Medicine to the Ministry of Health (1955), Chairman of the Medical Panel of the British Council (1961) and a member of the Medical Research Council and of the Tropical Medicine Research Board from 1961-1964. He was a Consultant to the Rockefeller Foundation for the Study of Medical Education in Developing Countries (1964), a trustee of the Wolfson Foundation (1967), on the Army Medical Advisory Board, and Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Medical Research of the World Health Organization. He was a member of the Medicines Commission from 1969 and of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, and the Medical Research Council’s Cancer Co-ordinating Committee from 1970. In the absence of a member of the Royal Family to undertake the Presidency of King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London in 1971, he became one of the three Governors. In 1972 he became Chairman of the Medicines Commission of the Department of Health and Social Security and was elected to the Board of Governors of University College Hospital.

As a physician his interests were wide ranging and his gentle approach to patients and their problems led to his being much in demand as a consultant, and as a consultant for consultants about their patients. His three College lectures reflect his main interests as a scientific worker. His first came under notice by his introduction of mandelic acid as a substitute for the ketogenic diet in the management of urinary infections. This ingenious method of treatment acquired popularity and was considerably used before the advent of sulphonamides and antibiotics. He was also a pioneer in and an advocate for the medical management of hypertension, and he was greatly interested in chronic pyelonephritis. These topics all received consideration at a Scientific Meeting held in March 1973 in his memory. This meeting was followed by a commemorative concert in the College.

Lord Rosenheim was generally and universally known as Max. He fostered friendship amongst the Fellows and Members of the College and presided delightfully over social functions in the College with a fine economy of words. He always prepared what he had to say meticulously, often typing it out himself. Of heavy build his appearance changed but little over the years. Max was a very warm hearted man, an international citizen who was sure of a welcome the world over.

Sir Kenneth Robson

[Biogr.Mem.Roy.Soc., 1974, 20, 349-358; RCP College Commentary, 7, 61-66, Brit.med.J.., 1972, 4, 568, 675; Lancet, 1972, 2, 1264, 1325; Times, 4 Dec 1972; Huntingdon Research Centre Gazette, 23 March 1973; Trans. Cey. Coll. Phycns., 1973, 6, 141; Bulletin of Amer. Coll. of Physcns, Feb 1973, 140-141; J. Roy. Coll. Gen. Practitioners, 23, Feb 1973; Dtsch. Med. Wochenschr., 16 Feb 1973; Nature, 1973, 242; J. of Alcoholism, 1972, 7, 117; Evening Standard, 4 Dec 1972; Family Planning, Jan 1973]

(Volume VI, page 394)

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