Lives of the fellows

George William Watson

b.9 August 1877 d.11 December 1956
MB BS Lond(1901) MD Lond(1903) MRCS LRCP(1901) MRCP(1905) FRCP(1915)

George Watson, the son of Thomas Watson, a textile manufacturer, was born at Cowling in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and educated at Keighley Grammar School, Leeds University, the Middlesex Hospital and in Vienna. From his early years he showed great powers of observation and application, and considerable manual dexterity. At the age of nineteen, a year before he entered the Leeds School of Medicine, he produced some very good X-rays of the bones of the hand and of an abnormally developed elbow joint by using a home-made Wimshurst machine to illuminate a Crookes’ tube. He was an accomplished pianist and organist, and for many years a real craftsman in wood and metal work.

From 1902 to 1905 he held resident appointments up to that of resident medical officer at the Leeds General Hospital. In 1906 he became physician to the Leeds Public Dispensary and in 1911 honorary assistant physician to the General Infirmary, where he had meantime been medical tutor. During the First World War he served in the R.A.M.C, at the 22nd Northern General Hospital from 1915 to 1918, attaining the rank of brevet-lieutenant-colonel, and on his return to Leeds held most of the important medical posts at the Infirmary and the University before becoming professor of clinical medicine in 1924 and then professor of medicine in 1933. He was also on the staffs of the St. James’s Hospital and the Dewsbury General Infirmary, and for some years honorary physician to the Leeds Tuberculosis Association.

After his retirement from the chair of medicine in 1938 he continued a busy consulting practice, examined for the Conjoint Board, and was chairman of the Infirmary faculty in Leeds. At the College he served as a Councillor (1937, 1938). During the Second World War he was regional consultant adviser in medicine to the Emergency Medical Service.

Watson was a general physician of the old school who disliked super-specialisms. He had no love for the National Health Service, believing that the general practitioner needed no help for his patients from clinics and hospital attendance beyond X-ray and laboratory reports, and should rely on his personal observations. This he himself did; it was the foundation of his excellent teaching and his wide practice. Although he was a shy man and hated any kind of publicity he was a good friend, with a great sense of humour and a love of Yorkshire stories.

In 1919 he married May Isabel Armstrong Nicholson. They had two sons; the elder was killed while serving with the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain.

Richard R Trail

[, 1956, 2, 1491; Lancet, 1956, 2, 1358-9 (p); Times, 13 Dec. 1956; Yorkshire Evening Post, 11 Dec. 1956.]

(Volume V, page 435)

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