Lives of the fellows

Michael Antony Floyer

b.28 April 1920 d.17 February 2000
MB BChir Cantab(1944) MRCS LRCP(1944) MRCP(1945) MD(1952) FRCP(1963)

Michael Floyer was professor of medicine and dean of the medical school at the London Hospital. He was educated at Sherborne and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and graduated in medicine from the London Hospital Medical School in 1944. He saw service as a physician in the Royal Air Force in Karachi, Pakistan, from 1946 to 1948, at the time of independence. Since there was an acute shortage of physicians due to the turmoil of partition, squadron leader Floyer found himself as the personal medical adviser to Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan.

In 1948 Floyer returned to the London as a clinical lecturer on Clifford Wilson's [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.524] academic medical unit, the main interest of which was the pathogenesis of hypertension. The trio of Clifford Wilson, Jack Ledingham [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.311] and Mike Floyer formed a critical mass of talent and ideas in this field. In the 1950s Floyer produced a series of simple and elegant experimental studies which were a lasting contribution to the understanding of the relationship between the kidneys and hypertension. In particular he showed why hypertension due to unilateral renal artery constriction eventually becomes irreversible on removal of the constriction. His work also contributed to ideas of a vicious cycle in the generation of malignant hypertension. In the 1960s Floyer increasingly used himself as an experimental subject. He had a perforated capsule implanted in the subcutaneous tissue of his own abdomen. The capsule accumulated interstitial fluid, the composition and pressure of which could be measured and studied under a variety of physiological circumstances. In 1980 Floyer was awarded the Oliver-Sharpey prize of the Royal College of Physicians for his work on hypertension.

Despite his reputation as a research worker, Mike Floyer's main interest was the teaching and welfare of medical students. Floyer was certainly not a theoretical medical educationalist. He believed in several simple but highly practical principles. The first was that medicine was a life-long learning experience and that students should learn how to cope with this. A second major principle was that disease should be understood as far as possible in terms of disorder of structure and function. Finally, he believed that the teaching of clinical medicine should be firmly based on the patient, and that all students should understand what constituted a good doctor. Mike Floyer was always the best informed of the staff on student affairs; perhaps some of this know-how was related to the location of many of his tutorials in a local pub! He was also heavily involved in student recreational activities. This involvement included playing rugby football well into his 60s and frequent arduous back-packing expeditions.

Between 1973 and 1975 Floyer was seconded to the University of Nairobi as professor of medicine. Here he helped to develop the skills and reputation of the medical faculty. During this period he was personal physician to Jomo Kenyatta, first President of independent Kenya.

In 1982 Floyer found himself precipitated rather unexpectedly into the post of dean of the London Hospital Medical School. He took to the position with great skill and his openness and courtesy generated trust. At this period there were considerable fears for the future of the London medical schools, which were mostly stand-alone institutes of the University of London. It did not make sense that medical and dental students were largely cut off from interaction with other faculties and disciplines of the University, nor was such isolation in the interests of medical research in London. Floyer laid the foundations for the union of the medical schools of the Royal London and St Bartholomew's as the medical and dental school of Queen Mary and Westfield College, a major multi-faculty institute of the University. Though matters had not progressed as far as he would have wished by the time of his retirement in 1986, he predicted that the full merger would occur within ten years, a prophesy fulfilled in 1995.

Despite his extensive academic activities, Floyer had a very full life as a clinician. Quite apart from his role as a general physician to the hospital, he was director of the accident and emergency department for a decade. The hospital and trust were fortunate to have a physician of consummate wisdom in charge of such a sensitive department in the deprived East End of London. In addition he also ran a very busy diabetic clinic throughout his consultant career.

He married Lily Burns in 1946. They had two sons and a daughter.

Robert Cohen

[The Independent 7 March 2000]

(Volume XI, page 201)

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