Lives of the fellows

Henry Letheby (Sir) Tidy

b.28 October 1877 d.3 June 1960
KBE(1943) MA Oxon(1905) BM ChB Oxon(1905) DM Oxon(1911) Hon LLD Belf(1948) MRCS LRCP(1906) MRCP(1908) FRCP(1919)

Henry Tidy was the only son of the distinguished Dr Charles Meymott Tidy, professor of chemistry, medical jurisprudence and public health at the London Hospital. He was educated at Winchester, where he was not very happy, at New College, Oxford, and the London Hospital, where he gained scholarships in medicine and pathology that led to the award of the Gillson research scholarship of the Society of Apothecaries. Following resident appointments up to that of registrar at the London Hospital he did post-graduate study at Freiberg and Berlin, and returned to the London as clinical pathologist.

In the First World War he held the rank of major, R.A.M.C.; his work with H. M. J. Perry on an epidemic of B. aertrycke was published in a Special Report of the Medical Research Committee (No. 24, 1919). In 1919 he joined the staff of St. Thomas’s Hospital, resigning his earlier appointments of physician to the Poplar and Royal Northern Hospitals, and, as ‘more St. Thomas’s than a St. Thomas’s man’, soon showed marked ability as a teacher and consultant.

In the inter-war years he maintained his interest in military medicine as honorary consultant to the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Millbank, and in consequence was gazetted as a colonel, R.A.M.C., and served as consultant to the Army at home from 1940 to 1942, which necessitated his retirement from the office of dean of St. Thomas’s Medical School. From 1942 he presided over the Inter-Allied Medical Conferences at the Royal Society of Medicine with zeal and enthusiasm that merited his knighthood in 1943. Other honours followed: in 1947, Commander, Legion of Merit, U.S.A., in 1948, Order of the White Lion, Czechoslovakia, Grand Officer of the Order of Orange Nassau, and an honorary LL.D of Queen’s University, Belfast.

He continued active work; every winter from 1946 to 1951 he was visiting professor to the University of Cairo, where he had a large consulting practice. For this he was well prepared, for he had been a constant supporter of the Association of Physicians, British Society of Gastroenterology and Royal Society of Medicine. At the College he had been examiner, Censor (1934-5, 1942), Registrar (1938-41), Lumleian lecturer in 1934, and representative on the General Medical Council from 1939 to 1944. For the King Edward’s Hospital Fund for London he had been a visitor from 1929, and later a member of its Economy Committee, of its council, and finally of its committee that developed the Convalescent Homes’ Scheme.

From 1926 to 1945 he was a member of the Committee of Management of the Conjoint Board, and at various times examiner for the Universities of Glasgow, Manchester, Durham, Sheffield and Belfast. In 1936 he was appointed Physician-in-Ordinary to the Household of the Duke of York, who appointed him an Extra-Physician when he became King George VI, and in 1952 he became Extra-Physician to the Queen.

‘Harry’ or ‘the Old Man,’ as he was known at St. Thomas’s, was a man of commanding and aristocratic bearing, but rather reserved, diffident, and sometimes difficult, though he could show at times a keen sense of quiet humour and great personal charm. He was a clear teacher with an encyclopaedic knowledge of medicine; his Synopsis of medicine (1920) was designed for the student and it reached its fourth edition in 1954. He edited the Index of symptomatology (1928), and was co-editor of the Medical Annual for many years from 1934. An acknowledged leader of the profession, he was essentially a general physician and an adviser rather than a diagnostician, and was respected by his colleagues more as a second than as a first opinion.

In 1906 he married Elizabeth Catherine Ramsay, the daughter of Sir William Ramsay, the famous chemist, for whom he had a great admiration. They had two sons and one daughter.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1960, 1, 1896-7 (p); Lancet, 1960, 1, 1354-5 (p); Times, 4 June 1960 (p).]

(Volume V, page 414)

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