Lives of the fellows

William Hope Stanislaus St John-Brooks

b.2 October 1914 d.9 March 1993
MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BChir Cantab(1939) MRCP(1940) FRCP(1966)

Although William Hope Stanislaus was brought up in a medical household he only decided on a medical career when he went up to Cambridge. His father, Ralph Terence St John-Brooks, was a bacteriologist and curator of the National Collection of Type Cultures in Dublin. His grandfather, Henry St John-Brooks was university anatomist at Trinity College, Dublin, and his uncle, Dr Eric St John-Brooks was the author of Sir Hans Sloane; the great collector and his circle, London, Batchworth Press, 1954. He was educated at Harrow, being an entrance scholar, and left with a scholarship. He proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, with the intention of studying mathematics and philosophy but transferred to natural sciences, graduating in 1936. He continued his medical studies at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, where he won the Wainwright prize in medicine and the Bristowe medal in pathology. He then worked as house physician to Sir Maurice Cassidy [Munk’s Roll, Vol. IV, p.528] and obtained his MRCP in 1940. That same year he married Frances DeRenzy-Martin, daughter of an Army officer, and they had four children - a son and three daughters.

As with so many of his generation, his formative years were spent in the Armed Forces. He joined the Indian Medical Service and served in India and Iraq with the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1946 he returned to St Thomas’ as resident assistant physician but he still had an urge to travel. In 1947 he was appointed senior physician at Timaru Hospital in New Zealand, where he found great satisfaction from work in a rural community.

He returned to the UK in 1950 and was appointed consultant physician to the West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance, and for the next 25 years he organized a unique medical service of the highest standard. He was a wonderful colleague, always willing to help in the diagnosis of difficult cases, always courteous to staff and patients, and greatly respected by all the general practitioners in the district. There was a feeling of real loss when he took early retirement in 1974. His worth was recognized not only in Cornwall but throughout the southwest region. He was a member of the south western regional board from 1965-71 and was elected a Fellow of the College in 1966.

He listed his interests outside medicine as mathematics, philosophy and literature. For many years he contributed to the mathematical ‘Brain Teasers’ in The Sunday Times. He also earned the nickname of ‘The Sage of Penzance’. On retirement he moved to Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, where for some years he greatly enjoyed doing locum work for the general practitioners. His later years were sadly marred by Alzheimer’s disease - a great tragedy for a man with such a brilliant brain. His wife and family survived him.

J R A White

[Brit.med.J., 1993,306,1682]

(Volume IX, page 458)

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