Lives of the fellows

George Walter Scott

b.16 December 1923 d.17 May 2007
MRCS LRCP(1949) MB BS Lond(1949) MD(1952) MRCP(1953) FRCP(1968)

George Walter Scott was a consultant physician at Guy’s Hospital. After his schooling at Epsom College, he went to Guy’s Hospital as a wartime medical student – a reserved occupation. Characteristically, he left to enlist in the Fleet Air Arm, following the death of his brother on active service. He survived the hazards of working as a pilot in South East Asia and returned to Guy’s to complete his training.

After qualifying in 1949 he worked on the house at Guy’s and as house surgeon to Russell Brock (later Lord Brock) [Munk’s Roll Vol.VII, p.62], who was at this point developing his pioneering career in cardiac surgery. It may have been this experience that stimulated Scott’s interest in respiratory medicine, for he then joined Ernest Lloyd at the Brompton Hospital for Chest Diseases, was elected in due course to the fellowship of the Thoracic Society, and proceeded to the London MD and his fellowship of the College.

In 1957 George was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and spent a year in Baltimore at the Johns Hopkins Hospital on a Guy’s exchange scheme. On his return, he was welcomed not only because of his clinical acumen and teaching ability, but also for his enthusiastic enjoyment of life. His sense of humour, based sometimes on his irreverent but affectionate characterisations of his senior colleagues (voice mimicry included) was in a way an integral part of his professional makeup.

He proceeded to the post of clinical tutor and in 1962 to the staff of Guy’s, where – among other things – he discovered a writing talent as co-author with Kenneth MacLean of a four-volume edition of a popular treatise on Medical treatment: a textbook of therapy (London, J & A Churchill). In a lighter vein, he and his colleague Bob Knight [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] made regular satirical contributions to the Guy’s Hospital Gazette under the pseudonyms Ratty and Mole.

As for his professional life, his considerable ability and his gentle humour attracted patients from far and near who had difficult and complex problems. So many came from the Channel Islands, in particular, that he chose to save them the journey by making regular visits of his own. He also got to know many of his colleagues and their families particularly well – because of the frequency with which they consulted him.

His capacity for enjoyment was impressive, as captain of a cricket club (the Silhouettes), as the enthusiastic part-owner of a racehorse, and as a golfer and a skier. In 1990, a fall resulted in contusion of his cervical spinal cord, causing a partial quadriplegia which made walking difficult. It was in character that after this serious setback he refused to acknowledge his residual disability. He continued his professional life as before and continued to play golf, but with increasing frustration as his neurological condition gradually deteriorated. Typically, he delighted in taking advantage of the situation when he found that he could enjoy bathing in the icy waters of Alderney long after others had given up, because the damage to his spinal cord made him less aware of the intensity of the cold.

During the last few years George sustained a variety of other physical afflictions which he tolerated with typical fortitude but which further curtailed his activities. The most serious blow came when, in 2000, his wife Brenda suffered a severe stroke while they were visiting their son John in the United States. From then on her care remained the focus and objective of his life; and he became increasingly frustrated as the severity of his own disability eventually equalled or exceeded hers. He died after a coronary thrombosis followed by a stroke.

He will be remembered by a generation of doctors and patients who admired his outstanding clinical skill and his charm, his sense of humour, and his ability to impart knowledge and understanding in an entirely painless way. He was also a man who not only enjoyed life himself, but led others to enjoy it too.

Toby Thorne
Maurice Lessof

(Volume XII, page web)

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