Lives of the fellows

Bent Einer Juel-Jensen

b.11 November 1922 d.20 December 2006
Cand Phil Copenhagen(1941) Cand Med(1949) BA Oxon(1951) BM BCh(1953) MRCGP(1962) DM(1972) MRCP(1975) FRCP(1978)

Bent Einer Juel-Jensen was a consultant physician in infectious diseases in Oxford, a distinguished collector of rare books and a polymath. He was born in Odense, Denmark, the son of Gerhard Juel-Jensen, a teacher, naturalist and book collector. His mother was an inspector of schools. He was educated at the Cathedral School, Odense, before going on to Copenhagen University. At university he was active in the Resistance against the Nazi occupation: he helped Allied airmen and took part in acts of sabotage. After university he served for two years in the Danish Navy.

As a schoolboy Juel-Jensen had written to Harrow School to find a pen pal, and had corresponded with Mark Maples. Mark was killed in a plane crash during the Second World War, but in 1947 his family invited Juel-Jensen to visit the UK. Here he met Mark’s twin sister, Mary, and the two were married in 1949. Although Juel-Jensen had already qualified as a doctor in Denmark, his qualifications were not recognised in the UK. He began his medical studies for a second time, enrolling at New College, Oxford.

He graduated BM BCh in 1953, and was a house physician and house surgeon at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. He went on to become a senior house officer at the Nuffield department of medicine, and was then a registrar. From 1957 to 1966 he was an assistant to the regius professor of medicine, Sir George Pickering [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.464]. With Pickering, Juel-Jensen began his first research, into hypertension and vascular disease.

In 1957 he joined a general practice that included the care of undergraduates in eight colleges, and two years later he carried out a study on the incidence of illness among these students. In 1960 he was appointed medical officer of Oxford University medical school, later becoming medical officer for the whole university (in 1976). In 1973 he became president of the British Student Health Association, and was a world authority on the care and health of students.

In 1966 he was appointed as a consultant in communicable diseases in Oxford, and as a university clinical lecturer in 1972. He was appointed as consultant in charge of the regional infectious diseases unit at the Slade Hospital, later the Churchill Hospital, in 1976.

Outside his medical career, he was a bibliophile and book collector. In 1951 he became the first treasurer of the Oxford Bibliophiles and the following year served as their junior president. He collected widely, particularly the literature of the Elizabethan and Stuart period, and especially the works of the poet Michael Drayton. He also had an extensive collection of early Danish books, including works printed in Iceland and Greenland.

He was also fascinated by the culture and history of Ethiopia, which he visited for the first time in 1973. He returned the next year as medical officer to an Oxford University Exploration Society archaeological expedition to Tigray. He became friends with the governor of the province, Ras Mangashia, learnt the Amharic language and the ancient Ge’ez liturgical script. He added Ethiopian manuscripts and books to his collection, and by 1990 he had acquired over 40, some dating back to the 15th century.

He took part in other expeditions, often with the Oxford University Exploration Club, including journeys to Bhutan, Kenya, St Kilda and Tristan da Cunha. His book Expedition medicine was published in 1986 (London, Expedition Advisory Centre). He was an honorary fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

He was on the council of the Friends of the Bodleian Library for almost 50 years, and in 1987 began to donate books to the library, including his Drayton collection, books from Nepal and by his friend Bruce Chatwin. In 1983 he became a curator of the library (a member of the governing body). On his retirement from the council of the library he was awarded the Bodley medal.

He was survived by his wife Mary, their daughter, Susan Frances, and adopted son, Seyoum.

RCP editor

[References: The Independent 4 January 2007; The Times 6 January 2007, 13 January 2007, 24 January 2007; Oxford Mail 11 January 2007; The Oxford Times 15 January 2007; 2007 334 373; Student Health Association – accessed 3 October 2013]

(Volume XII, page web)

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