Lives of the fellows

Paul Hamilton Wood

b.16 August 1907 d.13 July 1962
OBE(1946) MB BS Melb(1931) MD Melb(1940) MRCP(1933) FRCP(1940)

Paul Wood, one of our College’s most distinguished cardiologists, died at the early age of fifty-five. He was born at Coonoor, India. His father was Richard Boardman Wood, a civil servant, and his mother Geraldine, the daughter of Alfred Tomson, a land agent in Birmingham. From his preparatory school, Yardley Court, Tonbridge, he went to Launceston Grammar School, Tasmania, where his athletic record forecast his Rugby blue at Melbourne University and his choice for the team of the combined Australian Universities that played against that representing Japan and New Zealand.

Following resident posts at Christchurch General Hospital he came to London. He was a house physician at Brompton Hospital in 1933 and resident medical officer at the National Heart Hospital in 1934-5. Up to then his logical mind had thought it would find most satisfaction in neurology; but in 1935 he became first assistant (Senior lecturer) to the professor of medicine at the British Post-Graduate Medical School, and in 1940 one of its consulting cardiologists. Three years earlier he was appointed consulting physician to the National Heart Hospital, and in 1947 dean of the new Institute of Cardiology where his energy and enthusiasm permeated every new development.

During World War II he was in charge of the Emergency Medical Service Effort Syndrome Unit at Mill Hill until 1942, when he joined the R.A.M.C. In 1945-6 he was a consulting physician with the rank of acting-brigadier. He then returned to his pre-war posts. When in 1949 he became cardiologist to Brompton Hospital, and a year later took over the directorship of the Institute of Cardiology, it was necessary for him to give up his post at Hammersmith and, a little later, that at the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital at Taplow, with which he was associated for only a few years. For the next twelve years Wood’s writings, lectures and teaching sessions showed his clear, precise mind and his supreme command of English.

In 1950 his output was exceptional, for in addition to important papers on atrial septal defect and the effort test in angina pectoris he published his monumental book, Diseases of the heart and circulation. He became a master of clinical bedside diagnosis. Only when his acute observation, sensitive palpation and careful auscultation, followed by simple deductive reasoning had led him, like Thomas Sydenham, to anticipate the cause of the condition and outline the steps in treatment necessary to deal with it, did he turn to the accessories of the electro-cardiogram, the skiagram and the investigation of the haemodynamics, that would dictate any necessary surgical intervention. Seldom did they alter his bedside diagnosis, for his quick, reasoning mind had already seen every indication of his final conclusion in his anatomical findings and the physical signs he had elicited.

If he appeared sometimes to resent criticism this was only because he had already foreseen it as he gathered and sifted every finding. This he proceeded to demonstrate in a kindly and full reply. Wood was essentially the warmhearted man who showed concern for the welfare and status of cardiological technicians in his presidency of their society. His energy was limitless. In addition to his vice-chairmanship of the Science Committee of the British Heart Foundation, and his honorary membership of numerous cardiac societies, he found time to travel more than a quarter of a million miles to lecture in many European and Middle Eastern countries, to the Commonwealth countries, including Canada as Sims travelling professor, and to the United States. At the College he was Goulstonian lecturer in 1941 and Croonian lecturer in 1958. What little leisure he had was spent in gardening, fishing, photography and philately.

In 1934 he married Elizabeth Josephine, daughter of John Guthrie, a consulting surgeon in Christchurch, New Zealand. They had two sons and one daughter.

Richard R Trail

[Amer. Heart J., 1963, 66, 577-8 (p); Brit. Heart J., 1962, 24, 661-6 (p), bibl.; Brit.med.J., 1962, 2, 262-4 (p), 346, 419, 555; Lancet, 1962, 2, 205-06 (p); Med.J.Aust., 1962, 2, 683-4.]

(Volume V, page 456)

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