Lives of the fellows

Alexander Peter Dick

b.3 October 1914 d.10 April 1998
BA Cantab(1935) MRCS LRCP(1938) MB BChir(1939) MRCP(1940) MD(1947) MA(1949) FRCP(1954)

Peter Dick was a consultant physician at the United Cambridge Hospitals. He came from a strong medical family. His father, James Reid Dick, was a surgeon at Scarborough General Hospital, and his brother also graduated from Cambridge and became a general practitioner. His mother Davina, was the daughter of a banker, William Wallace.

Peter was born in Yorkshire and educated at Wellington College. Going up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he passed the natural sciences tripos with first class honours. He began his clinical studies at the London Hospital in 1935 as an open entrance scholar. A number of junior posts in medicine at the London Hospital followed qualification. He gained his membership of the College at the beginning of the war, before enlisting in the RAMC. He served in the British Expeditionary Force in France, but on returning to England he became a specialist physician with an interest in neurology, publishing a paper in The Lancet on the diagnosis of epilepsy.

After demobilization he returned to the London, first as clinical assistant and later as medical first assistant and medical tutor. He worked with Sir John Parkinson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.443] and William Evans in the cardiac department, performing valuable studies on the use and standardization of digitalis preparations, which at that time varied greatly in their efficacy. He completed his MD thesis on rapid digitalization in cases of severe cardiac disease.

In 1949 he was appointed consultant physician to the United Cambridge Hospitals. His particular interest was in ulcerative colitis, and he published papers on its treatment by Adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and by sulphasalazine. He performed an important long-term study confirming the persistence of colonic mucosal abnormality even in patients who were asymptomatic. This involved the development of a suction instrument for rectal mucosal biopsy which was later used by other leading gastroenterologists.

Together with his great friend and trusted colleague Dick Berridge [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.33], he published a study correlating the pathological changes of ulcerative colitis with radiological findings, a report which greatly improved the diagnostic value of the barium enema. He was also greatly interested in arterial disorders of the gut, and published the first case report of the treatment of malabsorption in jejunal diverticulosis by antibodies.

He was an excellent and devoted teacher and was very proud of the progress of his registrars and house physicians, many of whom, under his influence, followed careers in gastroenterology with conspicuous success.

Peter played a full part in the administration of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and in the development of Cambridge as a clinical medical school. He was a member of the board of governors of the United Cambridge Hospitals and chairman of the Addenbrooke’s consultant staff committee. He was appointed an associate lecturer in medicine in the University of Cambridge. He was an examiner in medicine for the Universities of Cambridge and London, for the conjoint board of the College of Physicians and also for the MRCP panel. He was a strong supporter of the British Society of Gastroenterology and worked extremely hard raising funds for the British Digestive Foundation.

Peter’s main interests, apart from medicine, were his family, Scotland, where he had a house in the Highlands, and the countryside. He loved gardening, shooting and fishing, and as the years passed became increasingly involved with gun-dog training and field trials. He also ran shoots.

He married Elizabeth Rua Sharp in 1947, and many Cambridge trained young doctors will recall with pleasure the warmth of the reception they received from Peter and Rua at their home. They had two sons, one of whom became a consultant surgeon. Peter was delighted to learn shortly before his death that one of his grandsons had also been accepted to read medicine - making four generations of doctors in the Dick family.

J O Hunter

[Brit.med.J.,1998,316,1908]

(Volume XI, page 152)

<< Back to List