Lives of the fellows

Brian Edyvean Heard

b.22 July 1922 d.22 February 1998
BSc Wales(1942) MB BCh(1945) MRCP(1946) MD(1950) FRCP(1974) FRCPath(1964)

Brian Heard was professor of histopathology at the Cardiothoracic Institute and honorary consultant pathologist at the Royal Brompton Hospital.

From the outset it seems that his life was to have personal as well as professional links with chest disease. His father, Albert Heard, a senior lecturer in geology at Cardiff University, was a consultant to Powell Dyfryn collieries and was an adviser to the miners' union in the days when successful compensation for miners lung depended upon the demonstration of a certain concentration of silica in the dust to which a miner had been exposed.

As a child Brian Heard suffered from severe asthma - this at a time when the only relief was inhalation of fumes from smouldering herbs. Consequently he was never fit for military service nor for sports.

He embarked on a career in medicine and was a senior student when the exigencies of war required him to serve as a house physician to D A Williams, an authority on asthma and allergies.

Brian Heard's aptitude was confirmed when he proceeded to pass his membership examination within a year of qualification (at a time when this was permitted but neither easy nor commonplace).

His initial inclination was toward paediatrics and it was as a grounding for this that he became a demonstrator in pathology in Cardiff. But he was captivated by the subject! Encouraged by his professor, J B Duguid, he studied atheroma in the renal arteries, work which was the subject of his MD thesis and made use of an inflation technique which later he applied to lung studies.

Further experience in pathology was gained in the academic department in Sheffield where he began studies on the lungs with experimental pulmonary arterial thickening and embolism. This he continued with Merlin Pryce at St Mary's Hospital Medical School before moving to the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the RCS London and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. There he digressed into cancer and other research including the effects of tissue freezing.

In 1954 he became lecturer and later senior lecturer at the Hammersmith Hospital. With J P Shillingford he was involved in the presentation of a very successful series of clinicopathological conferences begun in January 1959 in the British Medical Journal. He was able to develop further his interest in lung disease. He used pressure fixation and barium sulphate impregnation techniques for the study of emphysema. These studies were on patients who in life had been studied clinically by Charles Fletcher [Munk's Roll, Vol.X, p.146] and other renowned clinicians at the Hammersmith at that time.

In 1966 he moved to the University of Edinburgh as a senior lecturer and honorary consultant. He established a respiratory pathology laboratory and continued his researches into pulmonary disease. He completed and published his book on the pathologv of chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

His time in Edinburgh was happy and productive - but the climate did not suit him and prompted his move back to London!

In 1970 he became a consultant pathologist at the London Chest Hospital and Brompton Hospital and honorary senior lecturer at the Cardiothoracic Institute. His researches continued and in 1979 he was made professor of histopathology.

His penultimate personal involvement with respiratory disease was the development of formaldehyde hypersensitivity. He had to retire from routine histology in 1982 but continued with the electron microscope working formalin free with Ann Dewar on mast cells in asthma.

He published extensively throughout his career. But he had many facets beyond the professional. He was an accomplished musician, initially at piano and later the cello. His interest was catholic and he was as happy playing in a jazz band as a student, in trios and quartets with family and friends at home, or joining in with a guitar as an elderly professor in a show with (somewhat surprised) hospital staff. He was also intensely interested in art and was an accomplished amateur artist. He might have made a lucrative living forging old masters.

A mischievous sense of humour is well illustrated by the way in which he made for his own 75th birthday a plaster cake bearing seventy-five birthday candles - which when ignited set off the fire alarm (much to the delight of his six year-old grandson).

He tolerated with courage his final personal encounter with pulmonary pathology - multiple pulmonary metastases from an obscure primary cancer. He died on the birthday of his only daughter who, by a bizarre and cruel fate, died suddenly from an intracranial haemorrhage 48 hours after his funeral.

Gordon E Heard

(Volume XI, page 259)

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