Lives of the fellows

John Richard Bolton

b.30 October 1913 d.25 December 1977
MBE(1944) MB BChir Cantab(1939) MRCP(1945) MD(1947) FRCP(1959)

John Richard Bolton was very much a West Country man. He was born at Plymouth, the son of George Howe Bolton, a company secretary, and May, daughter of Richard Curtin McCarthy. He was educated at first at Plymouth Grammar School, from where he won a scholarship to Blundell’s School. Here he showed great distinction, leaving as a scholar for Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read mathematics for two years and then changed to medicine.

He made his clinical studies at the London Hospital, where he qualified at the outbreak of the second world war. Before he joined the RAMC he held a house physician’s appointment at Poplar Hospital. His Army service was primarily in Malta during the siege, and for great devotion to duty he was appointed MBE in 1944. He later served in Italy in the rank of major and became a full medical specialist, having progressed to membership of the College.

He returned to the London Hospital on demobilization and worked for a short period in the receiving room before becoming first registrar to the professorial unit and then, in 1948, assistant director of the unit to Clifford Wilson. He worked on problems of hypertension and diabetes and a great future at his old hospital seemed assured, yet he yearned to return to his native West Country. In 1952 he was appointed as physician to the Bath Clinical Area, where he undertook the establishment of a geriatric department.

For 25 years he devoted himself to a life’s work at St Martin’s Hospital, Bath, and in return he earned the devotion and unstinting personal respect of everyone with whom he came in contact. He was personally and clinically wise, and part of his great charm came from the humility and gentleness with which he worked. He was never heard to speak harshly of anyone but, nevertheless, even if his points of view were unpopular, he never deviated from his rigid principles of upright conduct.

He was a popular teacher, with great clarity of exposition, and he had a large following of juniors who flocked to work with him and who learnt to emulate his careful and thorough bedside approach, and to appreciate his quizzical sense of humour. John Bolton retired early to his Cornwall home at Padstow where he was set to enjoy his painting, sailing and bird watching, but this was all cut short by a tragic accident at sea. He left a widow, Elsie, and three sons, two of whom are doctors.

DW Pugh

[Brit.med.J., 1978, 1, 116]

(Volume VII, page 51)

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