Lives of the fellows

Edward Samuel Stern

b.10 March 1905 d.15 July 1976
MB BChir Cantab(1931) MRCP(1931) DPM(1932) MD(1936) FRSS(1962) FRCP(1964) FRCPsych(1971)

Edward Stern was born at Burton on Trent where his father, Arthur Landauer Stern was head brewer and biochemist at Bass’s brewery. His mother, Grace Madeleine (née Falk) was the daughter of a merchant, Ernest Falk.

He was educated at Clifton College and received his medical education at Cambridge and at University College Hospital, London, qualifying in 1931 and proceeding MD in 1936.

After he had completed his appointment as house physician at University College Hospital, he decided on a career in psychological medicine. He was appointed assistant medical officer at Napsbury Hospital in 1931, from where he took his DPM the following year. He became deputy medical superintendent at the Towers Hospital, Leicester, in 1937, and was appointed medical superintendent at the Central Hospital, Warwick, in 1942 where he remained until his retirement in 1971. He was appointed a founder fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the same year.

He held his post as medical superintendent at Warwick with the greatest sense of responsibility and clinical enthusiasm. His quiet dignity, his warmth of personality, and his sense of duty earned him the lasting respect of his medical and nursing colleagues. The care and consideration he showed to his patients was also characteristic. He made a point of visiting the wards daily, would see every new admission as soon as possible, and knew every patient by name, being on personal and friendly terms with each one of them.

Stern was an excellent committee man, who could be persistent and even formidable if the interests of the patients were in any way threatened. He was active in promoting realistic rehabilitation facilities, and pioneered the resettlement of patients in supervised accommodation within the local community. He would encourage every new treatment approach in the care of the mentally ill, yet would never interfere at the clinical level, not even with the most junior colleague. Moreover, he encouraged his juniors to take advantage of training schemes at other centres, although an inspiring and gifted clinical teacher himself.

He was also concerned that the patients under his administrative care should have every possible social amenity. He saw to it that they had an extensive and comfortable library, and he would arrange classical musical concerts for their entertainment and education. He was persistent in his appeals to lay committees to visit the wards to observe conditions for themselves. Needless to say, he was an enthusiastic advocate of the principles of ‘the therapeutic community’ and ‘the open door’.

Stem became concerned with the cost of medical care, and published jointly with his sister Babette E Stern, a statistician, an article on ‘Efficiency in mental hospitals’ in the British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, 17, No 3, July 1963. Using a similar theme he published ‘A statistical study of departures from a mental hospital’ in the British Journal of Psychiatry, 116, No 530, January 1970.

He travelled widely and visited many psychiatric centres in other countries. He wrote an article on ‘Psychiatry in Israel’ in the Middlesex Review, 2, 323, 1963. He published an article on one of his wife’s ancestors entitled ‘Dr Hodgkin’s relationship with his distinguished friend and patient Sir Moses Montefiore Bt. FRS’ in Medical History, XI, No 2, April 1967, describing their visits together to the Holy Land in the year 1827 and subsequently.

He was appointed to the council for music in hospitals in 1947, and had been a committee member of the Mental After Care Association since 1965. He was chairman of the child psychiatry section of the Royal Medico-Pyschological Association in 1946, and was later secretary, then chairman of the Study Tours sub-committee. He had been an examiner in psychological medicine at Birmingham University. In 1962 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. He was also president of the Leamington Medical Society.

Stern was a witty after dinner speaker, with unusual verbal facility and a ready memory, so that he would often surprise his audience by off the cuff quotations from English and even Greek literature. In his spare moments he would busy himself with amateur carpentry, and after his retirement to a beautiful country house on Edge Hill, which he had himself designed, he became a keen and enthusiastic gardener. He was an active member of his masonic lodge and would often be called on to propose the visitor’s toast.

He married Alice Daisy, daughter of Nathaniel Sampson Lucas, a pathologist, in 1933, and had two daughters; Valerie who married a lecturer in social anthropology, and Julia who married a doctor who became a consultant in nuclear medicine at Edinburgh. His wife died tragically in May 1975. Subsequently he married Christine Orton who had been closely associated with his work at the Central Hospital in her capacity as chairman of the house committee there.

C Tetlow

[Brit.med.J., 1976, 2, 535]

(Volume VII, page 553)

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