Lives of the fellows

Harold Gordon Mather

b.15 January 1921 d.13 July 2007
MD Western Reserve Cleveland(1945) MB BChir Cantab(1946) MA(1946) MRCS LRCP(1946) MRCP(1950) MD(1954) FRCP(1965

Gordon Mather was a former consultant physician at Southmead Hospital, Bristol. He was born in Sheffield. His father, Harold Mather, a pioneer of vegetarianism, trained as an osteopath in middle age, while continuing to run the family cutlery firm. His mother, Mary Alice (née Kober), was the daughter of a pork butcher. Gordon studied at Cambridge, where he gained a first in natural sciences, and then King’s. From there he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation studentship to Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, where he qualified MD. As this was wartime, during the Atlantic crossing in a convoy he was the acting medical officer on the ship, and also joined a gun crew.

Returning to the UK, and after Cambridge finals and house jobs, he completed his National Service with the RAMC in Singapore and Calcutta. He was then a registrar and subsequently senior registrar at King’s. Working with Clifford Hoyle [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.279], he became interested in, and published several papers on, different aspects of sarcoidosis, which was also the subject of his Cambridge MD thesis, awarded in 1954.

In 1956 Gordon was appointed consultant physician at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, where he worked in general medicine with a special interest in cardiology. He was instrumental in developing cardiac services and responsible for setting up the first intensive care unit in the south-west of England, after visiting a number of such units in the US and Canada. He was a keen teacher of junior doctors, and subsequently undergraduates when Southmead became a teaching hospital, and his wisdom, humanity and clinical acumen are remembered by many. He remained interested in research and jointly set up a foundation to support the research efforts of junior staff. His most controversial research was a Department of Health funded project supported by Archie Cochrane [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.95]. Gordon set up a randomised controlled trial comparing home and hospital care for patients with myocardial infarction, which showed that at that time (the early 1970s), when there were relatively few useful interventions, uncomplicated cases, particularly those over 60, fared rather better under home care.

Gordon was generous with his time, not only in medical training and education, but also serving on hospital management committees and chairing his hospital medical advisory committee. He was active in the British Cardiac Society and the Association of Physicians, and became president of the Bristol division of the BMA. After retirement from the NHS in 1986, he continued for some years in private practice and as a member of Medical Appeal Tribunals, as well as being active in charity and education work.

Gordon met his wife Betty when she was a medical student at King’s. Although they were not related, they were both called ‘Mather’, and the coincidence of their names led to their introduction, their wedding in 1949 and 57 years of happy marriage. They travelled extensively together, to academic meetings and for pleasure, and shared a love of the sea and sailing, the mountains and winter sports. Together they took great delight in their growing extended family. He was playing tennis and golf to within two years of his death. He leaves his wife, three sons (William, Robert and Peter), eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild who was born, and he met, just shortly before he died.

Robert Mather

[Brit.med.J.,2007,335,519]

(Volume XII, page web)

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