Lives of the fellows

Robert Harold Meara

b.8 December 1917 d.4 August 1999
MB BChir Cantab(1942) MA(1942) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1966)

Robert Meara was a consultant dermatologist at the Middlesex, St John’s and Goldie Leigh Hospitals. He grew up in Monmouthshire, the youngest of four children. His father was a builder who died after a prostate operation, while Robert was still at school. From Jones’ West Monmouth School Meara went up to Cambridge, where he graduated with first class honours in the natural science tripos. His clinical training was at University College Hospital.

Meara served in the RAMC from 1943 to 1947. As a medical officer in a field ambulance unit he landed in Normandy soon after D-Day and continued through France and Germany up to the Baltic until the final surrender. For a time he was a venereologist with the British Army on the Rhine.

Following demobilization Meara started as a house physician at UCH, before several years as a senior registrar at St John’s Hospital and at Goldie Leigh Hospital.

He was much influenced by G B Dowling [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.163], director of the Institute of Dermatology and consultant at Goldie Leigh Hospital, then a children’s hospital for ringworm of the scalp and chronic skin diseases. From there Meara described a special variety of epidermolysis bullosa, now known as the Dowling-Meara form, recently shown to be caused by a genetic defect in keratins K5 and K14 in the basal cell layer of the epidermis. In 1979 he gave the Parkes Weber lecture at the College on Hutchinson’s summer prurigo.

Robert Meara served as dean of the Institute of Dermatology from 1970 to 1980, where he was popular with post-graduate students. Almost every year he invited them with their wives and husbands to a dinner party at his house in Kent. One summer he spent two months as a visiting consultant in Iraq.

Robert was a very personable man, completely devoid of prejudice of any kind. He combined medicine with a wide interest in the arts. His knowledge of music was extensive, almost encyclopaedic, although he did not play himself.

He was a voracious reader of novels, history, biographies and archaeology, especially of Greece and Byzantium. He went to Greece every year and travelled widely in Europe and the Mediterranean. He made one trip to South America and Antarctica, including Patagonia, where his father-in-law had worked as a sheep farmer for nearly thirty years. He and his wife visited the sheep station and spoke Welsh with the community there.

Robert married Mair, a ward sister, in 1943. They had two daughters and a son (Jolyon) who is a consultant geriatrician and a Fellow of this College. Robert became ill on his last visit to Greece in 1998 and died of leukaemia a year later.

C D Calnan

(Volume XI, page 388)

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