Lives of the fellows

Arthur Gurney Yates

b.19 November 1881 d.26 January 1977
MA MB ChB Edin(1908) MD(1910) MRCP(1911) FRCP(1929)

When Arthur Yates died, at the age of 95, he had been retired for about thirty years. Those who live so long have lost most of their contemporaries, most of their erstwhile colleagues, and many of their former students, but Yates had interests and friends until the end of his life.

His father was a Congregational minister in Spalding, where Yates was born; his mother had been a missionary. He was educated privately and later at Spalding Grammar School, after which he was for a time apprenticed to a pharmacist in Sheffield. He left Sheffield to take a medical degree at the Edinburgh Medical School, after which he returned to Sheffield to take up junior hospital appointments at the Sheffield Royal Infirmary. This was in 1908. In 1910 he was medical registrar, and from 1912 to 1948 honorary physician to the Royal Infirmary. During part of this time he was also consulting physician to the City General Hospital, Sheffield, and during the 1914-1918 war he was registrar to the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. He was a lecturer in medicine at Sheffield University.

After retiring age he stayed on for some years as physician in charge of the neurological department, Sheffield United Hospitals, and was president of the Association of Physicians at their meeting in Sheffield in 1952.

In his early years, Yates published papers on the relation of streptococcal disease to rheumatism, and later wrote an account for the Medical Research Council on the clinical aspects of the Sheffield outbreaks of epidemic encephalitis. His main interests were in neurology, and in the psychological aspects of illness, but medicine was not so specialized in his time, and psychiatry had only begun to invade the general hospitals.

Yates was a somewhat retiring person, but a very good scholar and, in consequence, a good speaker and a good teacher, but he had some of the absent-mindedness which is said to go with such personalities. For instance, he would walk down from his consulting rooms to the Royal Infirmary and only later in the day remember that his car was a mile away uphill where he had left it in the morning. He would teach with meticulous care on his student round, sometimes never getting beyond the first bed. His house physician would then have to rearrange the beds so that Yates did not teach again on the same patient on his next visit. He was an inventor, in the sense of taking up new techniques, and was the first in Sheffield to introduce bronchography and ventriculography.

One final, if intimate, story should be told. It must have been in the 1930s that he noticed a lump in his abdomen while he was having a bath. He consulted a colleague and they agreed that he had cancer of the pancreas. Time was to prove that they were wrong, but during the time of suspense there was no noticeable change in Yates’s demeanour, or his attitude to life. His daily work continued exactly as before.

He reached high office in Freemasonry and was noted for his speeches. He made an excellent speech to friends who had gathered to celebrate his 90th birthday. His main hobbies during his long retirement were photography and cabinet-making. He was married twice: first to Dorothy, daughter of Arthur Neal, solicitor; secondly to Doris Hope Duplock, daughter of a tea planter. By his first marriage he had two daughters.

Lord Platt

[, 1977, 1, 654]

(Volume VII, page 627)

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