Lives of the fellows

Joseph Wilkie Scott

b.1 June 1877 d.16 February 1958
MC(1916) MB ChB Glasg(1898) MD Glasg(1902) MRCP(1919) FRCP(1933)

A native of Airdrie, Joseph Wilkie Scott was one of the three sons of a schoolmaster, Alexander Scott, who all entered the medical profession. His mother was Elizabeth (Wilkie) Scott. He received his medical education at Glasgow University, and after holding house appointments at the Nottingham General Hospital went into partnership in general practice in the city. This phase of his career was cut short by the First World War, in which he became medical officer to the 7th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Robin Hood’s). While serving in France in 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in action.

On his return to civilian life he quickly achieved the Membership of the Royal College of Physicians of London, and was elected honorary assistant physician to Nottingham General Hospital, and later honorary physician to both the General and Children’s Hospitals. Henceforth his work was chiefly, and later entirely, in consulting medicine—general and paediatric. He loved both equally and would have hated to abandon either for the other. Very soon he acquired a well-deserved reputation for clinical skill and soundness of judgment, not only in the city and county, but more widely, and a large consulting practice was soon added to his extensive hospital work.

Dr J. W. Scott’s association with Nottingham began in 1899 with his appointment as assistant house physician, was interrupted by his retirement in 1946 from consulting practice and from his unique position as honorary physician to the General and Children’s Hospitals and visiting physician to the Nottingham City and Mental Hospitals, and was by no means broken by his death.

Possessed of a clear and penetrating mind, he quickly got to the heart of a problem. He was an excellent teacher so that his outpatient clinics and his ward-rounds, particularly Sunday mornings at the General, and Thursday afternoons at the Children’s, became tutorials to not a few practitioners who owed much to his encouragement, and who continued thereby to be still in his debt and to be able to recall vividly cases first demonstrated to them by Wilkie Scott.

His enthusiasm in the quest of the right diagnosis, and in the most certain means of achieving it, was best seen at open clinical meetings, where he would marshal his facts and arguments with the skill of an advocate. He was, too, a good committee man who would give his opinion firmly and who was frequently left to do the drafting of some difficult proposition. Above all he was a loyal and kindly colleague with a saving sense of humour.

His was a life of many activities and many labours and some much-prized honours. He was a staunch supporter of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society, as a member of its council, for two long spells its honorary secretary, and in 1930 its president. His presidential address attracted a record attendance.

Arrangements for a provincial meeting in Nottingham of the paediatric section of the Royal Society of Medicine about 1928 were almost entirely the work of J. W. S., and the meeting was adjudged something of a personal triumph. His eminence as a physician was acknowledged by his election to the College Fellowship, and as a paediatrician by his holding the presidency of the British Paediatric Association in 1938. Though not greatly drawn to medical politics he held it to be his duty to take his share of the toil and sweat. He was chairman of the Nottingham division of the British Medical Association in 1929-30, and president of the branch from 1938 to 1940. Earlier he served as a vice-president of the section of diseases of children when the Association held its annual meeting at Nottingham in 1926. His recreations were tennis, golf, and chess—particularly golf, which at certain frugally fixed times could be interfered with only by the direst medical emergency and never by the weather.

In 1926 he married Dr Marjorie Godfrey, whom he first met as his house physician at the Nottingham Children’s Hospital. She shared his life and his enthusiasms to the full and was throughout his professional life a wonderful support. It was always a delight to be in their company, whether at a formal party or over a cup of tea after a medical meeting. Alas, soon after Dr and Mrs Scott left Nottingham in 1946 for retirement to Yoxford in Suffolk, Mrs Scott’s health declined and was pitiably bad for three years before her death in 1956. Though broken by these years of anxiety and by his wife’s death, Scott made new friends in the county of his adoption and maintained his activities—golf, postal chess, and correspondence with old friends and colleagues—and until three or four months before his death appeared to be in good health. His colleagues and a host of friends and grateful patients regarded him above all as a kindly soul of a warm if somewhat shy nature, a most loyal and devoted colleague, a great physician, and one whom it was a privilege to call friend.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1958, 1, 586-7 (p); Lancet, 1958, 1, 485-6.]

(Volume V, page 369)

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