Lives of the fellows

John Simpson

b.23 May 1917 d.25 April 1987
MB BS Durh(1939) MD(1946) MRCP(1947) FRCP(1965)

John Simpson was born at Tynemouth, Northumberland, into a medical family. His father, Robert Wilfrid Simpson, was in general practice at Heaton. His mother, Bessie Ainsley, was the daughter of a business man.

John was educated at Newcastle Royal Grammar School and the University of Durham, undertaking his clinical studies at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. He graduated with second class honours, obtaining house appointments at the Royal Victoria, where he recalled with special gratitude the influence of J C Spence, later Sir James Spence [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.386], and other teachers there. He then joined the RAF medical branch and was posted to Singapore just before the invasion. Over the next four years, as a prisoner of war in Java, Malaya, Burma and Siam, he managed to keep records of the nutritional deficiencies as they developed in the various camps. These formed the basis for his MD thesis soon after liberation, which was followed by his membership of the College.

In 1949 he became the first consultant physician to be appointed to the remote West Cumbria area, where he found much ill health from high unemployment and a decaying mining industry. Based on two small hospitals in the main towns, and with the nearest university centre 100 miles away, he found full scope for his clinical expertise, his capacity for sustained hard work, and his teaching ability.

Over the next 25 years John Simpson had the satisfaction of building up a medical unit based at the new West Cumberland Hospital, as well as maintaining close contact with all the general practitioners in the area and teaching housemen, who came from all parts of the world, as well as students from Newcastle. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1965 and served on the committee which considered the functions of a district general hospital.

When he was 55 years old he went to Uganda on a two-year secondment, where he found his interest in tropical disease and nutrition of so much use that, realizing how much he could contribute to developing countries, he resigned from the NHS and thereafter worked in Zambia and the Persian Gulf until far beyond normal retiring age. Apart from his personal contribution, he was also able to arrange for promising medical students to come to the United Kingdom for further education.

In his free time, John was an active fell walker and interested in birdwatching. He also enjoyed gardening, music and the arts.

In 1945 he had married Monica Mary, daughter of Patrick O’Grady, and they had three daughters. His family survived him.

CB Willey

[Brit.med.J., 1987, 294,1557]

(Volume VIII, page 464)

<< Back to List