Lives of the fellows

John Richard Hugh Towers

b.13 January 1903 d.9 May 1989
MRCS LRCP(1927) MA Cantab(1928) MB BChir(1929) MRCP(1930) MD(1932) FRCP(1940)

John Towers was born in Leeds, the son of Henry Towers, a medical practitioner, and his wife Martha, daughter of a steel merchant, John William Hinchliffe. He received his early education at Leeds Grammar School, going on to study medicine at Clare College, Cambridge, where he gained a double first, and he then entered The London Hospital for his clinical training.

After house officer appointments at the General Infirmary, Leeds, where he came under the influence of Wardrop Griffith [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.490], he developed a main interest in cardiology and returned to The London where he became clinical assistant to Sir John Parkinson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.443]. Subsequently he became resident medical officer at the National Heart Hospital, followed by a medical registrarship at St Mary’s Hospital.

In 1933 he was appointed assistant physician to the General Infirmary, Leeds, to the Herzl Moser Hospital, and also to the main hospitals in Dewsbury, Pontefract and Wakefield. He was senior clinical lecturer in the University of Leeds and chairman of the university medical committee.

John Towers rapidly built up a large consulting practice in the West Riding of Yorkshire and beyond, and has been described by many as ‘the family doctor’s ideal consultant physician’. Despite his heavy load of clinical work, he played a full part in medical administration and was twice appointed a member of the board of governors of the Leeds General Infirmary. He was also chairman of the medical faculty for a three year period.

He was elected to the fellowship of the College in 1940, was an examiner for several years and appointed senior censor in 1958. He took an active part in many societies and associations; in 1957 he was president of the Leeds and West Riding Medico-Chirurgical Society, a member of council of the British Cardiac Society 1946-50 and its chairman in 1958 - the same year in which he was elected president of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland. He did much to establish the British Heart Foundation in Yorkshire and later became chairman of its Yorkshire council. During the war he served in the Emergency Medical Service.

John Towers was a stimulating, popular and very effective teacher. He had a commonsense approach to medical problems and this was clearly reflected in the large number of students who attended his ward rounds, outpatient clinics and lectures. He was also kind, considerate and understanding - attributes much appreciated by students entering the hospital wards for the first time. He had many pertinent sayings and was never short of a suitable, and usually amusing, anecdote to illustrate or emphasize a point. His delightful sense of humour made him an excellent and entertaining after-dinner speaker. He was unfailingly courteous to patients and colleagues and they learned much from his good example; people always felt better for being in his company.

After retirement from the NHS he remained full of enthusiasm for his work and continued in consulting practice. He was a member of the Medical Appeal and Pension Appeal tribunals, and was prepared to help out as a locum in hospitals if an emergency arose.

When time permitted, he loved walking in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. He was a golfer and a keen shot, and working in his garden was one of his greatest pleasures.

He married Gwyneth Helen (Bunty), daughter of Thomas Nicholson, a medical practitioner, in 1932 and they had three children - two daughters and a son.

W Sefton Suffern

[Brit.med.J., 1989,299,256]

(Volume IX, page 525)

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