Lives of the fellows

Patrick Montrose Smythe

b.9 May 1913 d.23 August 1999
BSc Natal MB BChir Cantab MRCP(1946) FRCP(1963)

Pat Smythe was an eminent South African paediatrician - an erudite scholar, a friend to many and a farmer in his later years. He was born in Pietermaritzburg and educated at Michaelhouse. After a science degree at Natal, he qualified at Cambridge and the London Hospital. He then served with the Royal West African Frontier Force in Burma during the Second World War, eighteen months of which were in the jungle.

Following demobilization he was a paediatric registrar at the London Hospital for three years, until 1949. He then returned to South Africa, as a lecturer at Groote Schur Hospital and was then appointed to the staff of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and the University of Cape Town.

He was appointed as professor of paediatrics and child health at the University of Natal Medical School in 1968. He led his department wisely and well, and also left his mark for his work on neonatal tetanus and retardation of brain growth in malnutrition.

Pat Smythe was an excellent clinician. At our medical grand rounds, which he usually attended, he would sit silently for most of the session but occasionally he added an invaluable contribution to the discussion of some adult medical problem. His wisdom was manifest and invaluable during his two years as dean of the faculty.

Visiting him at his farm, Allandale, in the foothills of the Drakensberg, was a great pleasure. Often there were other guests and his house parties at the old colonial homestead were stimulating and the large farm in its mountainous terrain a delight. Pat was an excellent host. Conversation flowed and while controversy sometimes surfaced, ill feelings never followed. Even when on his own on a debated point, Pat would rigorously defend his point of view. You could not help developing the greatest affection for this learned man; he often quoted at length apposite tracts from some of the giants of the past. Indeed, in conversation on the veranda at Allendale when my wife and I visited him several weeks before he died, he quoted from Edmund Burke.

He died in tragic circumstances after a brutal attack at his isolated home. South African medicine is the poorer for his loss.

E B Adams

(Volume XI, page 535)

<< Back to List