Lives of the fellows

Peter Derrick Samman

b.20 March 1914 d.1 December 1992
MB BChir Cantab(1939) MRCP(1946) MA MD(1948)FRCP(1963)

Peter Samman was born in Darjeeling, India. His father, Herbert Frederick Samman, was a Commissioner in the Indian Civil Service, as was his mother’s father. His cousin, C T Samman, a lieutenant colonel who was master of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries 1928-31, averred that his name was pronounced ‘Samman, like the fish, Sir!’ but Peter accentuated the second syllable.

On his father’s retirement the family returned to the Isle of Man, where Peter attended King William’s College. He went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and then to King’s College Hospital, London. Soon after he qualified, the second world war began. He volunteered for the RAF, rose to the rank of squadron leader, spent two years in Canada, and after the war returned to King’s and obtained his membership of the College.

The King’s dermatology ethos had attracted him to the specialty. Sydney Thomson - of Thomson’s Disease, congenital poikiloderma, 1923, [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.436] - was in charge of the department having succeeded Arthur Whitfield, of the ointment [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV, p.470]. He was house surgeon and medical registrar at King’s until 1947 when he moved to Bristol as senior registrar. There he started a lifelong study that brought him international recognition - the classification of the cutaneous lymphomas, identifying those that could be predicted to become truly malignant. His MD dissertation was entitled ‘Hodgkin’s Disease with special reference to the skin changes found therein’.

In 1951 he was appointed consultant physician for diseases of the skin to Westminster Hospital. He spent a sabbatical six months during 1958 at the University of Pennsylvania in the foremost academic unit in the USA, Pillsbury’s. This was followed by his appointment to the staff of St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin. St John’s was his chief academic focus; he was dean for five years.

A man of upright and definite convictions, he never wasted words either with his colleagues or his patients but everything he said was well considered and quietly delivered, with sincerity and integrity. He was punctilious in his attendance to his hospital work at Westminster and St John’s, where he was particularly respected for sound clinical judgement and also in committee. His opinion was always the first to be sought at national and international meetings on the subject of cutaneous T-cell lymphomas, mycosis fungoides and pre-reticulotic conditions. He would answer succinctly and clearly, reporting his meticulous analysis of the patients that had been referred to him from all over the UK.

He gave the Parkes Weber lecture in 1976, entitled ‘Cutaneous reticulosis’. He also contributed chapters on this subject, on nails in disease and on lichen planus, in the celebrated Textbook of dermatology, ed A J Rook and D S Wilkinson, Oxford, Blackwell, 1968, which went into several editions. His The nails in disease, London, Heinemann, 1965, went into four editions. In 1990 he edited A history of St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, Oxford, Radcliffe Medical.

He married Judith Mary née Kelly in 1953 and settled in Orpington, Kent. He and Judy had a large garden and Peter was a knowledgeable plantsman; he won many cups and awards at horticultural shows where his specialty was chrysanthemums. They had three daughters, one of whom is medically qualified and in general practice. In his later years he was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease; he died of pneumonia.

P W M Copeman

[Brit.med.J., 1993,306,996-997]

(Volume IX, page 459)

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