Lives of the fellows

John Caspar Winteler

b.5 January 1910 d.29 July 2005
MB BS Lond(1933) AKC(1933) MRCS LRCP(1933) MD(1935) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1964)

John Winteler was based in Africa for much of his career, as a consultant physician in Kenya and then as a senior specialist in neurology and cardiology in Cape Town, South Africa. He was born in Croydon to a Swiss father and an English mother, the youngest of three children. During his early school years he showed little academic promise, spending most of his time playing his beloved piano and organ, making radio sets and an electric water heater for his mother, and indulging his love of flying at Croydon Aerodome.

At the age of 15 he suddenly blossomed at his academic work at Whitgift School and, together with his lifelong friend John Fulford Jarvis, later to become his brother-in-law, obtained joint top honours at school and an open scholarship to King's College, London to study medicine. He received the Warneford prize in 1931 for his essay on modern psychology and belief in immortality. He was awarded the MRCS LRCP in July 1933 and MB BS in November 1933, winning the Todd medicine prize and the Jelf medal.

He completed clinical assistant posts in paediatrics, neurology and orthopaedics and was a registrar in medicine at King's College Hospital from 1935 to 1936, obtaining his MRCP in 1935. He then moved to the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases as senior registrar until 1939, when he joined the Ministry of Health at Whitechapel, working as a medical officer based mainly in London but also at Carlisle in Cumbria.

In November 1942 he was promoted to major and full medical specialist at the Shaftesbury Military Hospital in Dorset. In July 1943 he was sent first to Baghdad and then to Iran for five months, then back to Iraq to be commanding officer of the 117th Indian General Hospital at Khanaquin. His interest in Christian and Jewish history and archaeology was awakened at that time.

After the war he was appointed adviser in medicine to the British Land Forces in Greece, and then moved to the Helmiek British Military Hospital in Cairo. After this he left the Army to join the Overseas Food Corporation's Groundnut Scheme in Tanganyika, as a senior physician for two years. He then set up a private practice in Nairobi, Kenya, and at the same time held a post as consultant physician at the Kenyatta and Nairobi hospitals. He boasted the only ECG machine in East Africa for some years and treated President Jomo Kenyatta and many other famous people visiting for wild life safaris.

He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1964. He was a frequent speaker at the Royal College of General Practitioners' Kenya faculty and was a reviewer of papers submitted for publication in the Journal of Chronic Diseases and the East Africa Medical Journal. At the end of his 23 years stay in Nairobi he was personally thanked by the Attorney General for his services to medicine in Kenya.

In 1964 he joined CIBA in Basle, Switzerland, at their Adverse Drug Reaction Centre, but he missed clinical work so much that at the age of 72 he joined the Day Hospital organization in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the community and also as a part-time consultant in neurology and cardiology at Groote Schoor Hospital until his retirement at the age of nearly 82.

Right until almost the end of his life he kept up his passion for music, playing the organ at his church, attending classical concerts and listening to his vast collection of classical music. Every year he made an extended trip to Europe, either to visit his scattered family or his beloved Switzerland, or to guide church groups around biblical sites in Israel, Jordan, Egypt or Turkey. He shared with them his great knowledge of this area and his biblical scholarship, which was the basis of his deeply held faith.

Following a stroke in February 2004 he became increasingly dependent on home care. He had always been an intensely private and independent person and the way he graciously accepted the loss of his independence and personal privacy was a real lesson us all. Throughout the remaining 18 months of his life he never ceased to be thankful for everything we did for him. He rarely complained and then would usually apologize for having done so. His prayers during this time were of thankfulness and concern for family and friends. One of his sorrows was that he could no longer play his piano properly, nonetheless he could still play favourite hymn tunes from memory until a month before his death. He never married but he was a wonderfully generous and much loved father figure to the whole of his extended family.

Jennifer Jarvis
Esther Watson-Jones

[Brit.med.J., 2005,331,969]

(Volume XII, page web)

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