Lives of the fellows

Joseph Stephen Pegum

b.8 September 1918 d.3 March 2003
BA Cantab(1939) LMSSA(1943) BChir(1944) MRCP(1948) MD(1952) FRCP(1966)

Joe Pegum was a consultant dermatologist at the London Hospital for 30 years and was a pillar of the British Association of Dermatologists, serving as its secretary for five years and then as its president in 1980.

Intellectually inquisitive and iconoclastic, he had rejected his Catholic faith whilst at Trinity College, Cambridge, and was expelled from his family by his father, a GP in Ireland, with resultant great financial hardship. He was fortunately helped by his college and, ironically, by the Jesuits for whom he retained a life-long respect.

As a student at Guy's during the blitz, he was said to welcome air raids as the only time a bathroom was ever free! After qualifying he joined the Navy and served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific until the war ended. Many years later he was to become a civilian consultant in dermatology to the Royal Navy.

Joe was an open-minded man, widely read and fluent in French and German. He regularly attended Franco-British meetings and did much to cement relations with our French colleagues.

After the war he trained at Guy's and UCH and was appointed to the staff at the London Hospital in 1953, shortly after chemotherapy for skin tuberculosis became available, ending the 50 year reign of the Finsen ultra-violet light in the treatment of lupus vulgaris. With his senior colleague, Brian Russell [Munk's Roll, Vol.X, p.428], he was involved in converting the large Finsen light department into a modern dermatology unit. Twenty two years later, the London was the first unit in the UK to introduce photochemotherapy for psoriasis.

His principal interests were in contact dermatitis and paediatric skin disease. He demonstrated the ability of certain adhesives to pass through rubber gloves and cause allergic reactions. In 1957 he became consultant to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, Hackney.

His sense of humour appeared early in life and never deserted him. As a houseman he witnessed an eye operation, involving the use of a magnet. Assured by the surgeon of the power of the magnet, he asked whether it was capable of pulling a knight in armour off his horse. On another occasion when a talkative woman was having a cataract operation he asked, 'Is this a chatteract?'

Joe Pegum was a modest, even shy man. He never threw his weight about in committee, but was a quietly effective chairman of his department for many years.

After retirement, he and his wife went to live in rural Essex. He maintained an active interest in his specialty and its association for many years.

Joe Pegum married Hazel Taylor in 1958. He is survived by her and their two children.

Harvey Baker

[gktgazette,April 2003, p.921; The Times,18 April 2003]

(Volume XI, page 445)

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