Lives of the fellows

Evan Fletcher

b.10 January 1917 d.14 October 1998
OBE(1969) MB BCh BAO Belfast(1939) MD(1946) DTM&H(1946) MRCP(1947) FRCP(1967) FACC

Evan Fletcher was a consultant physician and cardiologist in Belfast and an adviser to the Glaxo group. He was born in Northern Ireland, where he had a strong classical education, the results of which remained with him for the rest of his life. His prodigious memory and intellect, his enormous knowledge of the classics and English literature, as well as modern languages, quite apart from his scientific career, made him a fascinating and unforgettable companion to those privileged enough to break into his quiet personality.

Despite his leaning towards the classics, he went to Queen’s University, Belfast, to read mathematics and then medicine. He qualified as a doctor in 1939 and immediately volunteered to join the armed forces. Within a few weeks he was on active duty as a medical officer in the RAMC with the British Expeditionary Force in France. In June 1940 he took part in their withdrawal from Dunkirk and on his return to England he was sent to India to serve with the Indian Medical Service. He served with distinction throughout the war in the north west frontier and in central command.

In 1946 he gained his diploma in tropical medicine at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He returned to Northern Ireland as a senior registrar at the Royal Victoria Hospital. From 1948 to 1970 he was a consultant physician and head of cardiology at the Belfast City Hospital. From 1955 to 1956 he was at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1971 he returned to the USA, where he was professor of cardiology at the University of Kentucky and visiting professor at the University of Arizona. Then in 1973 he was appointed professor of medicine at the University of Texas and director of cardiology at the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

In 1978 he returned to the UK, became consultant in electrophysiology to the Zurich Medical School and began a further career as adviser in cardiovascular medicine to the Glaxo group. During a long association with clinical pharmacology within Glaxo his knowledge and experience, particularly in the field of electrocardiology, was put to good use and he made valuable contributions to the development of a number of important drugs, including Zantac, Imigran and Serevent. He retained his appointment at Glaxo right up to the time of his death.

He wrote many publications, the best known of which was The atlas of electrocardiography (Bristol, 1963, John Wright & Sons). Among many honours, he was a past president of the Irish Cardiac Society and an honorary physician to the Queen. In 1969 he was made an OBE for his work as a colonel in the Territorial Army.

He never completely retired, but lived his last few years continuing his education, teaching, gardening, writing, composing poetry and, above all, enjoying his family. He married Dolores de Grey Warter in 1940, who survives him, together with his daughter, Lynette, and step-daughter, Anne.

A T Davidson

[The Times 16 Nov 1998; Brit.med.J.,1999,318,540]

(Volume XI, page 200)

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