Lives of the fellows

John Arthur Cosh

b.17 June 1915 d.6 October 2005
BA Cantab (1936) MB BChir(1940) MRCS LRCP(1940) MRCP(1947) MD(1951) FRCP(1964)

John Cosh was a rheumatologist and a proponent of the research and development of herbal medicines. He was born in Bristol, the son of Arthur Lionel Strode Cosh, a pharmacist, and Ellen Cosh née Janisch, the daughter of a physician on St Helena. He was educated at Bristol Grammar School, gained a scholarship to study medicine at St John’s College, Cambridge, and then St Thomas’ Hospital, London. He qualified in 1940.

He held house posts at Lambeth Hospital, London, and the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester. In 1942 he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served as a surgeon lieutenant. He was on the Arctic convoys to Murmansk and Archangel, and took part in the Italian landings in 1943 and 1944. He was mentioned in despatches in 1945.

Following his demobilisation, he went back to Bristol to train in cardiology. In 1948 he became a medical registrar at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. From 1951 to 1957, he was a lecturer in medicine at Bristol University. During this period he published research on vibration sense, patent ductus ateriousus and paroxysmal nodal tachycardia.

In 1957 he was appointed as consultant physician to the Bath area, where he specialised in cardiology and rheumatology. At that time rheumatic fever was very common, leaving many patients with damaged hearts.

In 1973, with RK Jacoby and MI Jayson, he published an 11-year follow-up study of 100 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (‘Onset, early stages, and prognosis of rheumatoid arthritis: a clinical study of 100 patients with 11-year follow-up’ Br Med J. 1973 Apr 14;2[5858]:96-100). This showed rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, impairing function for decades after onset. The study was brought up to date in 2004 (‘Outcome after 40 years with rheumatoid arthritis: a prospective study of function, disease activity, and mortality’ J Rheumatol Suppl. 2004 Mar;69:3-8).

In 1986, he co-wrote a study that showed the association of rheumatoid arthritis with several human lymphocyte antigens – the associations were stronger in patients with more advanced disease (‘HLA and rheumatoid arthritis: a combined analysis of 440 British patients’ Ann Rheum Dis. 1986 Aug;45[8]:627-36). He also co-wrote, with John Lever, Rheumatic diseases and the heart (Springer, 1988).

He was a member of the British Cardiac Society and an honorary member of the British Society for Rheumatology. He retired in 1982.

He developed an interest in herbal medicines. From 1984 to 1996 he was a consultant medical adviser to Gerard House and then worked for Bio-Health Ltd. He was a consultant physician to, and a member of, the committee of directors at the Bristol Cancer Help Centre.

In 1940 he married Kate Jackson, the daughter of a banker and the sister of Frederic Sinclair Jackson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, web]. They had two sons and a daughter.

RCP editor

[The Times 14 November 2005; Brit.med.J 2005 331 1026]

(Volume XII, page web)

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