Lives of the fellows

Rodolph Charles Wingfield

b.20 February 1886 d.5 February 1946
BA Oxon(1908) BM Oxon(1911) MRCP(1914) FRCP(1928)

Rodolph Charles was the son of Canon Charles and Mary Charlotte (Blake) Wingfield. On the death of his father the family moved to Bruges. From there Rodolph came home to enter Haileybury, where he soon showed the athletic prowess that gained him a place as a heavy-weight in the boxing team and in the Rugby trials at Oxford. Like many athletes he became rather shy, retiring and solitary when he had finished the posts of house physician and demonstrator in morbid anatomy at St. Thomas’s Hospital, and began to take an interest in the pathogenesis of human tuberculosis by working with L. S. Dudgeon.

In 1913 he was appointed superintendent of the hospital tuberculosis department, but when he was rejected for military service in World War I he added to this work attendance at the post-mortem department of Brompton Hospital, so that by 1920 he was already well fitted to take charge of Frimley Sanatorium, where he did brilliant work as a clinician and an administrator until his retirement in 1945.

While he was a man of imposing personality with a rather aloof air to those who did not know him, and a strict disciplinarian, his attention to detail and the confidence he inspired by his intimate knowledge of the background of his patients won him the respect of every patient and the admiration of a succession of assistants. He was forthright, and intolerant of slip-shod work, but his evident sincerity and humanity, his wide reading and experience and his patent desire to arrive at the best diagnosis and treatment on which to found his advice, brought happiness to the whole institution.

Although Wingfield was an individualist with little respect for team work, he was one of a committee which started the research department at Brompton Hospital into the development of childhood tuberculosis. He had the honour to be the first English physician to see the value of mass X-ray examination of the young adult factory worker, and with Dr Margaret Macpherson undertook the first survey of this kind in England.

The extra strain of dealing with very sick patients during World War II, most of them never likely to be fit for the rehabilitation exercises he had learnt from Marcus Paterson, undoubtedly brought on the illness which forced his retirement, but he never gave up to the last his interest in the Brompton Hospital Reports which he originated. In 1913 he married Isobel Rose Paterson, who had been a nurse at St. Thomas’s Hospital; they had no children.

Richard R Trail

[Brit. J. Tuberc., 1946, 40, 57-9; Brit.med.J., 1946, 1, 297-8; Lancet, 1946, 1, 254 (p), 290-91; Times, 28 Feb. 1946.]

(Volume V, page 454)

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