Lives of the fellows

David Somerset Short

b.6 August 1918 d.4 May 2005
MB BChir Cantab(1942) MRCP(1943) MD(1948) PhD Lond(1957) FRCP(1964) MRCP Edin(1964) FRCP Edin(1970)

David Somerset Short was a consultant physician and cardiologist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and physician to the Queen in Scotland. He was born in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, the son of Latimer James Short, a public health physician, and Mabel Annie Short née Wood, the daughter of a lace manufacturer. There was a tradition of medicine in the family; his uncle Arthur Rendle Short was professor of surgery at Bristol University, and two of Short’s brothers became doctors. He was educated at Bristol Grammar School and then Clare College, Cambridge, where he held the MacLoghlin scholarship from the Royal College of Surgeons. He went on to Bristol for his clinical studies, qualifying in 1942 with a gold medal

He held house officer posts in Bristol and at Hampstead General Hospital, and then joined the RAMC in 1944. He saw service in India and Burma, managing to find the time to teach himself New Testament Greek.

Following his demobilisation in 1947, he worked at Southmead Hospital, Bristol, and was then appointed to posts at the National Heart, London and Middlesex hospitals. He gained an MD in 1948 and a PhD in 1957 on pulmonary vasculature and cardiac rhythm. He later outlined one of the earliest descriptions of the cardiac arrhythmia that became known as ‘sick sinus syndrome’.

He finally gained his consultant post in 1960, as a physician and cardiologist to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where he quickly launched a programme of weekly postgraduate teaching. From 1982 to 1985 he was chairman of the research ethical committee at the University of Aberdeen and Grampian Health Board. Before he retired in 1983 the university made him a clinical professor of medicine.

In 1977 the Queen appointed him as her physician in Scotland, on call for the Royal Family at Balmoral. He had in fact treated Prince Charles much earlier when, in 1964, the young prince developed pneumonia while camping and had had to be admitted to an Aberdeen nursing home.

Short was a fervent Christian, a staunch member of Hebron Evangelical Church, chairman of the executive committee and later president of the Christian Medical Fellowship. He also wrote on spirituality and medicine. His books included Medicine as a vocation: one Christian’s experience (London, Christian Medical Fellowship, 1978) and Pastoral visitation: a pocket manual (Tain: Christian Focus Publications, Edinburgh, Rutherford House, 2004). In 2005 he co-wrote a paper on spirituality in hospitals (‘Body, mind and spirit: what doctors need to know about the Scottish Health Department’s spirituality initiative.’ Scott Med J. 2005 Feb;50[1]:3-4).

Outside medicine, he enjoyed music, cricket and, in his later years, touring with his wife in their motor-home. In 1948 he married Joan Anne McLay, who was also a doctor. They had one son, four daughters and 13 grandchildren, all of whom survived him. He died from acute myeloid leukaemia.

RCP editor

[The Daily Telegraph 10 June 2005; 2005 330 1333; Triple Helix summer 05 p14]

(Volume XII, page web)

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