Lives of the fellows

Geoffrey Reginald Steed

b.17 February 1912 d.13 December 1990
MRCS LRCP(1937) MB BS Lond(1937) MD(1940) MRCP(1941) FRCP(1961)

Geoffrey Steed was born at Barham, Kent, the eighth of eleven children. Shortly afterwards his father, Percy Walter Steed, and his mother Edith Sarah née Miles, moved with the family to the farm at Finglesham where he grew up. He was educated, as were six of his brothers, at Sir Roger Manwood’s School, Sandwich, seven miles distant- to which he cycled daily. He was very able in the academic sphere as well as in sports, being made school captain in his final year. His enthusiasm for rugby football and tennis continued throughout his life.

Deciding on a career in medicine, in part because of an interest in missionary work, he enrolled at King’s College Hospital medical school. As a student he was a member and later captain of a highly successful King’s College rugby team. During 1938 he met Evelyn Elizabeth Mitchell, a fellow doctor from Edinburgh, working at King’s College Hospital. They married in 1939, the same year in which he was appointed a medical registrar at the hospital.

At the beginning of the second world war he joined the RAF as a medical officer and was stationed in Britain until 1944 when he was posted to Burma as a senior medical officer, returning to Britain with the rank of squadron leader. On leaving the RAF in 1946, he resumed his career at King’s for a short time as Sambrook senior registrar. During the war, four children were born to the family, the last two being twins.

In 1947 he was appointed physician to the City Hospital in Plymouth. When the NHS was established he became consultant physician to several Plymouth hospitals, principally at Freedom Fields and Greenbank Hospital, where he practised for some 30 years before his retirement in 1977. He established a cardiac care unit but his principal clinical achievement was in the development of a comprehensive diabetic service. As well as having these special interests, he was widely regarded as being a wise, caring and expert general physician whose opinion was sought by general practitioners and hospital colleagues alike. His junior and senior colleagues remember his teaching, gentle courtesy and encouragement.

For many years he served on hospital and medical staff committees, being chairman of the hospital medical staff committee from 1961-1964 and a member of the regional hospital board from 1965-74. As a founder member of the Diabetic Association, he also served on its council. He was one of the staunchest advocates of the ideals of the NHS service and was chairman of the Plymouth branch of the BMA. Even after his retirement he supported the Plymouth Retired Hospital Staff Association, being both its chairman and president. In 1977, his distinction was recognized by the award of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.

Geoffrey was a man of wry wit and a leader of the profession in the Plymouth district where his qualities were appreciated to the full. Despite his heavy clinical and administrative burden he retained his keen sporting interests being, in his younger years, an enthusiastic county-standard tennis player, a golfer, and also enjoying rough shooting. His expertise in gardening was shared with his wife. Having celebrated their golden wedding in 1989, his wife died the following year. Their children, Miles, Andrea, Nicholas and Duncan survive them, with their many grandchildren.

M J Grayson

[Brit.med.J., 1991,302,958]

(Volume IX, page 500)

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