Lives of the fellows

John William Aldren Turner

b.13 February 1911 d.12 October 1980
BA Oxon(1932) BM BCh(1935) MA(1937) MRCP(1937) DM(1940) FRCP(1946)

John Turner was born in Harley Street where his father practised as a neurologist and was physician on the staff of King’s College Hospital and the National Hospital, Queen Square. His mother Helen was a daughter of Dr John Macdougall, himself the son of a general practitioner in Galashiels; John Macdougall FRCS practised during the season in Cannes. His paternal grandfather, Sir William Turner KCB FRS, was the son of a carpenter in Cheshire; he won a scholarship to St Bartholomew’s Hospital where he qualified; he became a demonstrator in anatomy at the University of Edinburgh and subsequently professor of anatomy and later principal and vice-chancellor.

John was educated at Clifton and New College, where he gained first class honours in natural sciences and the Theodore Williams scholarship in anatomy. He spent his undergraduate clinical years at Bart’s where he gained the Walshian prize in pathology and the Brackenbury scholarship in medicine.

He graduated in 1935 and was house physician to Hinds Howell. He became house physician, then RMO at the National Hospital, Queen Square. When war came in 1939 the hospital temporarily closed, and he was sent to an EMS hospital for functional nervous disorders in Kent under TA Ross. After a short time he moved to Hurstwood Park Hospital, Haywards Heath, where the medical and surgical work of the National Hospital continued under Arnold Carmichael, Julian Taylor and Harvey Jackson, with regular visits from Gordon Holmes. In January 1942, he joined the RAMC. At St Hugh’s Hospital, Oxford, he became command neurologist to the very busy Northern Command at York and later to Western Command at Chester, then adviser in neurology to Southern Command, India, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. On demobilization he was elected to the staff of St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

As may be inferred from his distinguished early academic accomplishments, John had academic ambitions, but lost them after a serious illness which required a partial gastrectomy, followed by a number of complications which necessitated a stay of ten months in the London Clinic, ending with a neuralgic amyotrophy, a disorder which he named and on which he published a number of papers. He bore this long illness with courage and patience. He made a satisfactory recovery and, until his last short illness, enjoyed good food and wine with a special liking for dry martinis, in spite of what he called the remnant of his stomach.

The writer and his family were privileged to enjoy a close friendship, and for thirty-five years he spent a week at Easter with us at our home in Derbyshire. He stayed with us for the main York race meetings in May and August. He spent many holidays with us in Scotland and abroad, the last in Cyprus which he enjoyed, although he was weak and knew he was dying. He died a few days after returning home.

His hobbies were a study of the behaviour of racehorses (mainly at York, Doncaster, Sandown and on television. He kept careful accounts of his small bets and one year announced with pride that he had lost only forty pounds); stately homes and antiquities, described by his friend Brodie Hughes as old ruins.

He had a pleasant sense of humour and a placid temperament, only roused to anger when a fancied horse was narrowly beaten.

J Carson

[, 1980, 281, 1222, 1294, 1435, 6252; Lancet, 1980, 2, 8200; Times, 15 Oct 1980; St Bartholomew’s Hosp.Journal, Winter 1980, 50]

(Volume VII, page 582)

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