Lives of the fellows

Ronald Bodley (Sir) Scott

b.10 September 1906 d.12 May 1982
GCVO(1973) KCVO(1964) BA Oxon(1928) BM BCh(1931) DM(1937) MRCP(1933) FRCP(1943)

Ronald Bodley Scott was born into a medical family. His father, Maitland Bodley Scott OBE FRCSE, was a distinguished general practitioner in Bournemouth. His mother was Alice Hilda Durance George. He was the only son to enter medicine and was educated at Marlborough College and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he obtained a BA in Natural Sciences in 1928. He entered St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College, and came under the influence of such men as Walter Langdon-Brown, Thomas Horder and Francis Fraser, teachers who dominated the scene and provided the intellectual stimulus. Bodley later ackowledged how much they had influenced him. Shortly after qualification in 1931 he returned to Bournemouth to join the family practice. He had evidently made such an impression as a student and house physician that he was invited to return to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, first as chief assistant to Dr Gow, and then as first assistant on the medical professorial unit. He obtained the diploma of membership of the Royal College of Physicians in 1933. It is evident from his published papers (now held in the Contemporary Medical Centre at the Wellcome Institute) that his interests in haematology began about that time, with papers on the reticuloses and haemorrhagic states. He learned the newly developed technique of bone marrow aspiration; an account of its use formed the basis of his thesis for a doctorate of medicine at Oxford University in 1937. His interests naturally led him to haematological malignancy, and in collaboration with AHT Robb Smith he described the clinical entity of histiocytic medullary reticulosis in the Lancet in 1939.

Within a short time of obtaining his first consultant appointment at the Woolwich Hospital the second world war started. He joined the very distinguished group of medical men who were brought together in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Middle East, a theatre of war which was to assume great importance and where he remained for four years, gaining promotion to lieutenant colonel in charge of medicine in the 63rd and 43rd General Hospitals. Busy as he was with wartime duties, he found time to lecture for the British Council and to examine in medicine at the Fouad el Awal University of Cairo. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1943.

In 1946 he was elected physician to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where his clinical skills were soon appreciated and his ability in the field of leukaemia and lymphoma recognized internationally. His penetrating intelligence, great clinical skill and inordinate capacity for hard work rapidly made him pre-eminent among the physicians of his generation. His appreciation of the value of pathology and clinical science made him sympathetic to the efforts then being made to bring laboratory and clinical medicine together. Those who worked for him remember how generous and forthright he was with his support for research.

In 1949 he was appointed physician to the Household of King George VI. In 1952 he became physician to Queen Elizabeth II, receiving a KCVO in 1964, and had the singular honour of being advanced to GCVO some nine years later. He held many appointments including consultant physician to British Railways from 1957, honorary consultant in haematology to the Army from 1957, consultant physician to the Florence Nightingale Hospital in 1958, consultant physician to the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers in 1963, honorary consultant to the Ministry of Defence in 1965. The number of these appointments gives a measure of his capacity for hard work and the value placed on his judgement.

He was a dutiful undergraduate teacher, but excelled in a postgraduate setting. His lectures on haematology and chemotherapy, the Lettsomian lectures to the Medical Society of London in 1957, the Langdon-Brown lecture in 1957, the Croonian lecture of 1970 and the Harveian oration of 1976 will long serve as well-researched sources on these subjects. He was interested in literature, contributing an article to the Lancet on ‘The doctor in contemporary literature’ - an amusing look at doctors in the detective novels he enjoyed. He also wrote a little on the history of medicine, contributing a perceptive history of medicine at his own hospital in the first part of the twentieth century to the anniversary commemoration volume produced in 1973.

At the Royal College of Physicians he was successively councillor (1963-1966), censor (1970) and vice-president (1972). He was president of the Medical Society of London (1965 -1966), president of the British Society of Haematology (1966-1967), and the section of medicine of the Royal Society of Medicine (1967-1968). he was master of the Apothecaries (1974), and served as a member of the council of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (1968) and the British Heart Foundation (1975), eventually becoming chairman of the latter. A chair in cardiology tenable at St Bartholomew’s Hospital has been named after him.

His extensive knowledge of medicine and his felicitous use of English were undoubtedly the basis for the success of his edition of Price’s Textbook of Medicine and the Medical Annuals. His last book, Cancer: the facts, was published in 1979.

He was a complex man: an eminently successful physician in the most conservative of professions, he had a deep understanding of clinical science and the need for innovation and experiment. Apparently reserved, almost shy, he had a considerable interest in his fellow men, and an acute appreciation of their foibles. He had an astringent wit that could be used with devastating effect if he detected humbug, deceit or injustice. A rich vein of kindness and humility ran through his character, inspiring love and loyalty in all those who worked for him. Those who were privileged to enjoy his friendship counted themselves most fortunate.

Bodley was married in 1931 to Edith Daphne, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel E McCarthy RMA. They had two daughters. Daphne died in 1977. In 1980 he married Mrs Jessie Gaston, the widow of Dr Alex Gaston of Sevenoaks.

JS Malpas

[, 1982, 284, 1567, 1779; Lancet, 1982, 1, 1195; Times, 13 May 1982]

(Volume VII, page 521)

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