Lives of the fellows

John Wedgwood

b.28 September 1919 d.30 August 2007
CBE(1987) MRCS LRCP(1943) MB BChir Cantab(1948) MRCP(1949) MD(1954) FRCP(1968)

John Wedgwood was a leading geriatrician and medical director of the Royal Home and Hospital for Incurables, Putney, London. He was born in London, into the Wedgwood pottery dynasty. His father was Josiah Wedgwood, president of the company; his grandfather, also Josiah Wedgwood, was a radical MP. Wedgwood’s mother, Dorothy May Wedgwood née Winser, caught polio during the early years of her marriage; he said he was greatly influenced by her courage and self-reliance despite her disabilities. He was educated at the Hall School, Swiss Cottage, and then at Abbotsholme School in Derbyshire. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, and Guy’s Hospital Medical School. He qualified with the conjoint examination in 1943.

He was a house physician at Bromley Hospital and in 1944 joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a surgeon lieutenant. In 1945 he was wounded when his minesweeper, HMS Squirrel was mined, suffering injuries to his left leg and back.

From 1946 to 1947 he was a registrar at Essex County Hospital. He was then a registrar at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. During this period he completed his Cambridge medical degree and passed the MRCP. From 1950 to 1956 he was a senior registrar at Addenbrooke’s.

He initially wanted to be a cardiologist, and from 1956 to 1959 he was a senior registrar in the cardiology department at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and from 1957 to 1958 a clinical assistant at the National Heart Hospital, but he became interested in geriatrics after surveying 200 chronically sick elderly patients in a former Cambridge workhouse. In 1960 he was appointed as a consultant physician in geriatrics at Bury St Edmunds. Initially he had few resources, but he gradually improved the facilities for patients and for teaching.

In 1968 he was appointed as a consultant geriatrician at Middlesex Hospital, where he established multidisciplinary teaching for medical students, nurses and paramedical staff. In 1980 he became director of the Royal Home and Hospital for Incurables at Putney (now the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability). He raised funds for new buildings, established programmes for multidisciplinary teaching and continued his research. He retired in 1986 and was awarded a CBE in 1987.

He was treasurer of the British Geriatrics Society, as well as chairman of the executive committee and of the editorial board of the society’s journal Age and Ageing. In his retirement he became chairman of the Royal Surgical Aid Society (AgeCare).

He was a council member of the Royal Society of Arts. From 1967 to 1986 he was also a director of the family firm, during which time it became a publically listed company. He listed his hobbies and interests as sketching and pottery.

He married Margaret Webb Mason (known as ‘Peggy’) in 1943. They had three sons and two daughters. The marriage was dissolved in 1971 and in 1972 he married Jo Alice Tamlyn.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2007 335 999; The Times 19 September 2007; The Telegraph 1 September 2007]

(Volume XII, page web)

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