Lives of the fellows

Eric Frank (Sir) Scowen

b.22 April 1910 d.23 November 2001
Kt(1973) MD Lond(1935) FRCP(1941) FRCS(1960) DSc(1962) FRCP Edin(1965) FRCPath(1965) Hon LLD Nottingham(1979) FRPharmS(1984) MA(1988) FRCGP(1989)

Sir Eric Scowen was professor of medicine at the University of London and a founder member of the centre of medical law and ethics at King’s College, London. He was born in London, the son of Frank Edward Scowen and Eleanor Betsy née Barnes, and educated at the City of London School. At the age of just 16 he entered St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School, qualifying five years later. He was subsequently a house physician to Sir Francis Fraser [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.141]. In 1933 Scowen was awarded a Baly research fellowship. Four years later, aged just 26, he was appointed as assistant director of the medical unit and assistant physician.

Although he was always a general physician, he maintained an interest in endocrinology and metabolic disorders of bone. In 1937 he was given leave of absence to study in the USA as a Rockefeller Fellow with the great names of that time in endocrinology, Phillip Smith at Columbia University in New York, and Howard Means and Fuller Albright in Boston. He returned to Bart’s a year later as a reader in medicine.

During the war years, while many of Bart’s staff was evacuated to Friern Barnet and Hill End hospitals, Scowen remained behind in the centre of London, living and working at Bart’s throughout the Blitz. In addition to his clinical and teaching duties, he helped organise the fire-fighting and air-raid protection of the hospital.

In the immediate post war years, Scowen became a senior consultant and helped plan the rebuilding of the medical school, which had been badly damaged by bombing. In 1951 he was appointed as warden, and for 10 years he was also president of the rugby, boat, boxing, soccer and athletic clubs.

In 1955 he became director of the medical professorial unit at Bart’s, and in 1961 professor of medicine at the University of London. During the 14 years he occupied the chair of medicine he became internationally recognized as an expert on the control of medicines. He chaired the British Pharmacopoeia Commission and was later a member and then chairman of the Committee on the Safety of Drugs. In 1969 he was made chairman of the newly formed Committee on Safety of Medicines. He was also chairman of the council of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund from 1977, and vice president in 1982.

At Bart’s he was responsible for starting the renal, metabolic medicine, clinical pharmacology and clinical and research endocrinology groups of the hospital and encouraging academic gastroenterology, chemical pathology and oncology.

He was a founder, and on the board of advisers, of the centre of medical law and ethics at King’s College. The centre was awarded one of the Queen’s anniversary prizes for higher education in 1997. Scowen took an MA at the Centre in 1988 and went on to undertake further research, on the development of law and ethics related to the problem of the human body as property. He was made a fellow of King’s College London.

RCP editor

[St Bart’s Hosp.J., Winter 1975, 133-136; The Independent 21 December 2001; The Times 28 January 2002; The Daily Telegraph 28 January 2002; J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2002; 32:147; gkt gazette Christmas 2001]

(Volume XII, page web)

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