Lives of the fellows

Gordon Wetherley-Mein

b.30 June 1918 d.24 March 1987
MA Cantab(1939) MB BChir(1942) MD(1953) MRCP(1965) FRCP(1971)

Gordon Wetherley-Mein, professor of haematology at St Thomas’s Hospital, was one or the farsighted few who founded the discipline of haematology in this country.

He was born at Cosham, Hampshire, where his father William Archibald Wetherley-Mein was a surgeon. His mother Elizabeth, née Taylor, was the daughter of an Edinburgh businessman. Gordon was educated at Wychwood Preparatory School, Loretto and St John’s College, Cambridge, and graduated in medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital medical school.

After graduation he joined the RAMC as a regimental medical officer with the 50th Infantry Division in North Africa. He served in Sicily and in the Normandy landings, and during his service in the field handled blood transfusions and organized a laboratory to deal with malaria.

On demobilization he joined the staff of the clinical pathology laboratory at St Thomas’s, and fell under the spell of Joe Bamforth [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.25], a unique teacher of pathology. Gordon Wetherley-Mein found the atmosphere of the laboratory stimulated his own interests and he increasingly specialized in haematology. But he was not really content to spend his life behind a laboratory bench; he was a man who preferred to be among his patients. His major interests were in proliferative diseases of lymphoid tissue and bone marrow, especially the polycythaemias and leukaemias.

In 1954 he became physician to the laboratory, and ten years later was the first occupant of the chair of haematology. He recruited staff with wide ranging interests so that the entire haematological spectrum was represented. He expected a total commitment from his team, equal to his own, and worked hard to support and encourage them.

He cut an unusual figure in the wards, with his Pickwickian appearance and his gales of laughter, but he was man of profound common sense and had little time for either waffle or red tape. He was an extremely shrewd doctor and his own straightforward teaching methods were popular with students.

Wetherley-Mein was elected a Fellow of the College in 1971, and after his retirement in 1983 he became Wolfson Research Fellow and set about organizing a countrywide survey of polycythaemia and its complications. It produced fascinating results which are expected to change the treatment of this condition.

He married Elizabeth McBride, daughter of an Australian sheep farmer, in 1945, and they had two children, Colin and Karen. In retirement he was able to spend more time sailing, which was a lifetime passion, and also to indulge in his other hobbies of reading and painting. His family survived him.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[The Times, 21 Mar 1987]

(Volume VIII, page 526)

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