Lives of the fellows

Samuel Leonard Simpson

b.8 October 1900 d.3 August 1983
MRCS Eng LRCP Lond(1925) MB BChir Cantab(1926) MRCP(1928) MA MD(1930) FRCP Lond(1940)

Sam, as he was affectionately known by his family and close friends, but Leonard was used on more formal occasions, was a most unusual man of many talents and endearing qualities. He was born in London, educated at Westminster School, and at Cambridge, where he was a boxing Blue and captain of boxing. He did his clinical course at the London Hospital and after graduation held a number of positions there, finally being first assistant to Sir Robert Hutchison. He must have been an able and hard working individual, because within four years of qualifying he wrote an extensive treatise on carcinoma of the lung, in which he clearly drew attention to the probable aetiological link with inhaled pollutants, including cigarette smoking. One sees this work referred to even today in the pathological literature dealing with lung cancer. He wrote several other important papers at this time, including an excellent account of Raynaud’s disease, and methods for investigating peripheral vascular disease. He was also closely associated with the first account of the viral origin of psittacosis in man. In 1930 he spent a year at the Mayo Clinic, a leading centre for endocrine investigation and research, and he was greatly influenced by this experience. He returned to London determined on a career in clinical endocrinology, and joined the staff of the Lister Institute, where he remained for four years. He worked closely with V Korenchevsky and Marjorie Dennison and did a great deal of work with rats, studying the metabolic and endocrine effects of gonadectomy, adrenalectomy and substitution therapy with testosterone, progesterone, oestrogen and adrenal cortical extract. He became a consultant on the staff of the Princess Louise Hospital for Children, and the Willesden General Hospital, specializing in endocrinology. He obtained wide experience in the use of adrenal cortical extract, and the newly discovered and synthesized adrenal hormone, desoxycorticosterone (DOC). He was well aware of the limitations of the treatment of Addison’s disease (because cortisol was not then available) and wrote several perceptive papers dealing with the hypokalaemia and hypertension which could arise from overtreatment with DOC. He wrote papers on endocrine aspects of childhood, especially obesity, and introduced the concept of adipose gynism and gynandrism to explain much of obesity in children, especially the constitutional aspect. He was indefatigable in the pursuit of more and more scientific information about his endocrine patients, and collaborated with many groups undertaking quite difficult assessments, including looking for the excessive androgen secretion in the urine in cases of female virilism and hirsutism. He was, of course, greatly hampered by the lack of precise methodology and this situation existed until the 1950s. The introduction of steroid chromatography, and later radio-immunoassay, transformed the scientific aspects of endocrinology. In 1938 Simpson published his textbook Major endocrine disorders which gave a very good and concise clinical description of the endocrinopathies as they were understood at that time. The book enjoyed quite a vogue and went to three editions. During the war, Simpson’s endocrine work was set to one side while he worked with the emergency medical services, especially in the transfusion branch. After the war he was appointed to St Mary’s Hospital, W2, and for the next twenty years he was the consultant endocrinologist at this hospital.

A great burden which Simpson took on his shoulders with apparent ease was to play an active part in running the firm of clothiers, S Simpson Ltd. This had come about by the unfortunate early death of his brother, Alexander, in 1937, leaving Simpson with the responsibility of looking after the family’s interests in this firm. In 1957 he became chairman, and he continued in this task until he died. Under his chairmanship the firm prospered and despite all the economic difficulties of the 1970s, Simpson’s of Piccadilly flourished, both as a merchandizing and manufacturing operation, with world wide business connections. Apart from his medical and business activities, Simpson had many interests throughout the community. He was a keen horseman, particularly interested in all equestrian activities. He supported golf and tennis, providing sponsorship for both through his firm. He was an able painter and exhibited at the Royal Academy. He had extensive farming interests and entertained a wide circle of friends, both at his country home, Grouselands, in Sussex, and also at Hyde Park Gate (Winston Churchill’s last residence). Simpson was a member of many academic, business and sporting associations and clubs, both in the UK and abroad. In 1940 he married Heddy Monique, Baroness de Podmaniczky, and they had one daughter, Georgina. She married the actor, Anthony Andrews, and they have two children, Jonathan and Jessica. It was a delight to watch Sam playing cricket with his grandchildren on the lawns at Grouselands, and he did this until a day or so before his death. He was a happy man, endowed with many excellent human qualities. An enduring memorial is the Alexander Simpson Laboratory for metabolic research at St Mary’s, which Simpson endowed in 1965 and named after his brother.

V Wynn

[Brit.med.J., 1983, 287, 564; Lancet, 1983, 2, 526; Times, 6 Aug 1983]

(Volume VII, page 538)

<< Back to List