Lives of the fellows

John Edwin Mackonochie Wigley

b.1 January 1892 d.7 August 1962
MB BS Melb(1915) MRCP(1922) FRCP(1938)

John Edwin Mackonochie Wigley was born at Holmbury St. Mary, Surrey, the son of an Australian solicitor, Thomas Wigley, and his wife, Lilian, née Richardson.

Taken at an early age to Australia, Wigley was educated at the Church of England Grammar School, Melbourne, and Melbourne University. He joined the R.A.M.C, in 1915, served in Gallipoli, Egypt, and France, and was demobilised with the rank of captain in 1919. He decided not to return to Australia, and did his postgraduate studies at the London Hospital under Sir Robert Hutchison and Sequeira. For a short time he studied dermatology in Vienna.

In 1923 he became clinical assistant to Dr J. M. H. MacLeod at Charing Cross Hospital, and on Dr MacLeod’s retirement he succeeded him as physician-in-charge of the skin department. He was also physician to St. John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, and consultant physician to the Paddington Green Children’s Hospital, King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor, King Edward Memorial Hospital, Ealing, Paddington General Hospital and St. Charles Hospital, Ladbroke Grove.

He took an active interest in the Medical School at Charing Cross Hospital, and his time and energy were given unsparingly to the London School (later Institute) of Dermatology, at which he was dean when he retired in 1956. He took his responsibilities very conscientiously, rarely missing any clinical or committee meeting. In the period of post-war apathy his example ensured the progress of the School of Dermatology and laid the foundations of the Institute of Dermatology and its professorial unit.

Wigley was essentially a clinician whose sound common sense and diagnostic acumen compensated for his cynicism of scientific methods. On one exceptional occasion he successfully demonstrated the presence of gold deposits in the skin in cases of dermatitis following treatment with that metal, but his main contributions were clinical. In 1945 he reported the first case of eosinophilic granuloma of the face (Proc. roy. Soc. Med., 1945, 38, 125-6), and showed many rare and interesting cases at the various clinical meetings.

His original articles were meticulously written for he was scathing about lower standards in medical literature, and his careful observations and precise language made him an excellent undergraduate teacher. In post-graduate spheres he seemed to delight in being under-estimated, and often abruptly ended prolonged discussions by standing up and saying: ‘Surely the answer is, that we simply do not know.’

In 1935 Wigley married Evelyn, daughter of Stanley Hoare, the senior partner of a firm of solicitors. The joint family association with the legal profession gave them a common interest and made Wigley partial to medico-legal problems. He received the highest honours of his special sphere of medicine; he was sometime president of St. John’s Hospital Dermatological Society, of his section of the Royal Society of Medicine and of the British Medical Association, in 1952-3 president of the British Association of Dermatology, and was an honorary member of the dermatological societies of France and Belgium. He was a generous and amusing host, his innate friendliness being enhanced by a Victorian courtesy and impeccable manners, a pungent wit and a devastating criticism of bureaucracy, nourished by his admiration for the works of Shaw and Gilbert.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1962, 2, 485 (p); Lancet, 1962, 2, 362; Times, 8 Aug. 1962; Trans. St. John's Hosp. derm. Soc. (Lond.), 1963, 49, 63-4 (p).]

(Volume V, page 447)

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