Lives of the fellows

Robert Stanton (Sir) Woods

b.10 February 1877 d.18 November 1954
Kt(1929) MB Lond(1904) MD Lond(1909) MRCP(1910) FRCP(1933)

Robert Stanton Woods was the fifth of the ten children of Robert Woods, J.P., of Stewarts Town, co. Tyrone, and Jane Frances (Cowan) Woods. He was educated at the Royal School, Dungannon where he won a classical scholarship to Queen’s University, Belfast. He came to London to study medicine, first at University College and then at the London Hospital. There he held many resident appointments, being in turn house physician, house surgeon, receiving room officer and resident accoucheur, and then medical registrar at a time when there were only two such posts

He soon became interested in the great varieties of physical treatments which were then being advocated. His interest in them and his scientific attitude towards the claims made for them led to his being appointed in 1911 physician-in-charge of the department of physical medicine at the London. This was an innovation for it was the first appointment of this nature made at any teaching hospital in England. He co-ordinated the work of his department with that of other departments of the Hospital, and won the respect of his colleagues for his clinical acumen and sincerity.

During the 1914-18 War he served in the R.A.M.C, in France, was mentioned in dispatches, and retired with the rank of major. During the illness of King George V, he was called by Lord Dawson to join his team of doctors, and in 1929 was knighted for his services. In 1936 he saw his efforts for his specialty crowned by the opening by the Duke of Kent of a new department of physical medicine and school of physiotherapy. During the Second World War he ran his department almost single handed while his juniors were absent on active service, was adviser in physical medicine to the Ministry of Health, and organised physical medicine in the Emergency Medical Service.

Robert Woods was a shy man; some found him difficult to know. He was easily moved to deep and practical sympathy for the sufferers from painful and crippling diseases who came to him for help, and was always well aware of the great gaps in the knowledge of their aetiology and therapy. He refused to be fooled or led astray by irrational or new-fangled fads or fancies, and had the courage to acknowledge his ignorance where a lesser man might have sought refuge in bluff and long words. From his juniors he expected loyalty; in return he steadfastly gave them his own. He was a man of wide reading and knowledge, always proud of his classical education. He had few hobbies and his efforts as a golfer often led more to exasperation than relaxation.

In 1917 he married Violet, the daughter of Clarence Trelawney. She was the widow of Major B. Liebert. They had a son and a daughter. The loss of the son on active service in 1942 was a blow from which he never fully recovered.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1954, 2, 1295-6 (p), 1362; Lancet, 1954, 2, 1132-3 (p); Times, 20 Nov. 1954.]

(Volume V, page 458)

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