Lives of the fellows

Norman Whittaker

b.6 April 1910 d.21 May 1993
MRCS LRCP(1934) MB BChir Cantab(1937) MA MD(1943) MRCP(1937) FRCP(1968)

Norman Whittaker was born in Chadderton, the son of James Edward Whittaker and his wife Annie Caroline née Fletcher. Both his parents were solicitors by profession. He was educated at Orleton School, Scarborough, and Oundle. He obtained an MA in the natural sciences tripos at Cambridge University and went on to complete his clinical studies at University College Hospital, London. Until the outbreak of war in 1939, he remained at UCH serving as house physician to Sir Thomas Lewis [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.531] and as house surgeon to Gwynne Williams FRCS, later taking casualty officer and medical registrar posts at the same hospital. With the advent of war, he acted as first assistant to the SE London Blood Transfusion Depot, and published several articles in The Lancet relating to blood storage and in 1940 he was appointed physician to the EMS at University College Hospital.

He joined the RAMC in 1942, the year in which he married Margaret Eleanor Morgans, a fellow student at UCH and later a physician at that hospital, and spent the next two years as medical specialist to the Falkland Islands Force. From 1944-46 he served with the Armed Forces in the Middle East. On demobilization in 1947, he joined the staff of the North Middlesex Hospital as a physician, a post he held until his official retirement at 65. Norman continued in active practice and for a short time held a locum consultant appointment at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Tottenham.

Norman was a very private man, almost taciturn in disposition, but he had an underlying rather dry sense of humour and he would sometimes unexpectedly burst out into uproarious laughter at some quiet joke. Those who knew him in later life were surprised to realize that in his early days at the North Middlesex he not only carried out the rigid gastroscopies for the hospital but also the cardiac catheterizations. He later ran the diabetic clinic at the North Middlesex, as well as acting each morning as staff physician for the nurses. His battered Ford car, which he had for many years, was always early at the hospital. Though a man of few words - but usually pertinent - he was an astute physician.

Long before the present health service changes, he made himself responsible for his own firm’s summaries and he coded the diagnoses himself; the clarity of thought in these short summaries was an object lesson to any junior doctor. For many years he served as secretary to the clinical section of the Royal Society of Medicine, a task he carried out with great devotion and little fuss.

Margaret and Norman had two children, a son and a daughter. Norman enjoyed fishing and drinking fine wines, but in his later years he was plagued by asthma and arthritis. It was rumoured that in his earlier years a condition of employment on his firm was that his juniors could play tennis on the hospital courts. He was indeed a quiet physician who was devoted to his work and was loved for it.

A Pringle

(Volume IX, page 580)

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