Lives of the fellows

Henry Harold (Sir) Scott

b.3 August 1874 d.6 August 1956
CMG(1936) KCMG(1941) MB Lond(1900) MD Lond(1907) DPH Irel(1913) DTM&H Cantab(1922) MRCS LRCP(1897) MRCP(1916) FRSE(1917) FRCP(1925)

Harold Scott was born at Spalding, Lincolnshire, the son of the Rev. Douglas Lee Scott, M.A., LL.D., headmaster of the Mercers’ School from 1876 to 1914, and Mary Elizabeth Rogers. He was educated at the Mercers’ and the City of London Schools, and at St. Bartholomew’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals. Soon after qualification he became house physician at St. Thomas’s, and then, in 1900, joined the R.A.M.C., serving with the South African Field Force until 1902, and receiving the Queen’s medal with five clasps.

On his return he spent some years in private practice in Ludlow, but in 1910 was appointed Government pathologist in Jamaica. He returned to England during the First World War of 1914-18, and served in the R.A.M.C, as pathologist to the Cambridge Hospital, Aldershot. He then took a Milner fellowship in comparative pathology at the London School of Tropical Medicine, and elucidated the life history of hymenolepis nana.

In 1922 he was appointed pathologist and bacteriologist to Hong Kong, but after a few years was invalided home, and on recovery became pathologist to the Zoological Society of London. In 1928 he became medical secretary to the Colonial Medical Research Committee in London, for which he wrote three volumes summarising the research being done in medicine and allied subjects in the various countries under the control of the Colonial Office (Memorandum on medical research in the Colonies, [Protectorates and Mandated Territories], 1928-30).

In 1930 he was appointed assistant director of the Bureau of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases, and in 1935 he succeeded Sir Arthur Bagshawe as director of that Bureau, where he edited, or supervised the editing of, the Tropical Diseases Bulletin, the Bulletin of Hygiene, and, for the first two years of its existence, the Bulletin of War Medicine. From his retirement in 1942 to his death in 1956 Scott lived quietly at Braintree, continuing to contribute to the publications of the Bureau, and engaged in other medical literary work.

Throughout his medical career Scott wrote a lot, contributing numerous papers to medical journals on subjects connected with his current work. As a result of his experiences in general practice he published Post-graduate clinical studies for the general practitioner (1907), a book on common clinical findings, and in 1924, with Dr Andrew Balfour, Health problems of the Empire.

In 1934 he wrote Some notable epidemics in which he recounted the sequence of events and the investigations which led to the solution of the difficult problems presented by these outbreaks; this book has been regarded as a fascinating account of medical detective work. In 1939 he published his greatest work, A History of tropical medicine, in two volumes; some copies were lost during the bombing of London in 1940-41, and the work was reprinted, with additions, in 1942. This History was based on the two FitzPatrick lectures he delivered before the Royal College of Physicians in 1937 and 1938, entitled The Conquest of disease in the Tropics’. It is the standard work on the subject.

There was little hesitation in Scott’s character, which was positive and definite; his mind was therefore always clear. He was a religious man, accepting the teachings of the Church of England without question. He was not interested so much in philosophical speculation as in matters of fact—the phenomena of disease and of living organisms as subjects to be studied as facts rather than as subjects for integrated interpretation.

He was conservative, in tune with the pre-1914 world. He was not a club man, though he was popular with men, for he had a keen sense of humour. Physically he was a small man, slight and very good-looking, with a fresh, clear complexion and a bright and rather merry eye. He took little exercise, and he played no games. He was fond of music, and played the piano a little for his own amusement, but his greatest relaxation was found in books. When he lived in London, or during 1939-40 in Cambridge, his Saturday outing took him to book shops of Charing Cross Road or the Cambridge market place, in search of bargains for his already over-full library.

He read everything— novels, biographies, histories, travel books—with a particular liking for famous trials. He read Greek and Latin, and most European languages, and took up the study of Dutch in his seventh decade.

Study and work were, in fact, the strong interests of his life, but he carried them with ease. His research was the outcome of careful enquiry into problems which presented themselves during his routine duties. For example he found Klebs-Loeffler bacilli in veldt sores in 1901 during the South African War, discovered an association between the often fatal vomiting-sickness of Jamaica and the consumption of the unripe ackee fruit (blighia sapida), and between the central neuritis of Jamaica and a diet predominantly of sugar cane. In Hong Kong he recorded the post-mortem findings in a large number of tuberculous children, and later linked these findings with his observations on tuberculosis in New-World and Old-World monkeys at the Zoological Gardens of London.

Scott was examiner for the conjoint diploma of tropical medicine and hygiene, and for the Liverpool diploma of tropical hygiene. He was elected vice-president of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 1937-9, and president in 1943-5.

He married, in 1899, Harriette, daughter of the Rev. D’Arcy Harrington Preston, of Attleborough, Norfolk. There was one son of this marriage, D’Arcy, who joined the Royal Engineers, but died in 1922. His wife died in 1933, and in 1934 he married Eileen Anne, daughter of the Rev. R. P. Prichard, vicar of Wilburton, Isle-of-Ely.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1956, 2, 422-3 (p); Lancet, 1956, 2, 360-1 (p); Nature (Lond.), 1956, 178, 520; Times, 8 Aug. 1956 (p); Trans, roy. Soc. trop. Med. Hyg., 1956, 50, 515-16.]

(Volume V, page 366)

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