Lives of the fellows

David Mattingly

b.1 March 1922 d.14 March 2009
MB BS Lond(1953) MRCP(1958) FRCP(1969) Hon FRCGP

David Mattingly was an academic medical pioneer, as he was the first doctor in the UK to lead a medical university department outside the existing medical schools and London medical institutes. He was born in Hampstead, London, one of the twin sons of Harold Mattingly CBE and his wife, Marian Grahame, née Meikleham, the daughter of a solicitor. His father was a distinguished numismatist and Roman historian, who was assistant keeper of coins and medals at the British Museum and his twin brother, Stephen [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] also trained in medicine and became a distinguished rheumatologist and expert on rehabilitation. The family were Quakers and he attended the Friend’s School in Saffron Walden.

During the Second World War, he served in the Friend’s Ambulance Service from 1940 to 1942, before joining the RAF as a flight lieutenant and serving as navigator and, later, staff navigation officer in Greece.

He trained at St Thomas’s and then held junior posts at St Thomas’ Hospital. After a year as resident medical officer at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital he moved back to London and St Thomas’ in 1956, as registrar in the department of metabolic diseases. Three years later he joined the staff of the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital as senior registrar and carried out his ground-breaking research into cortisone. He developed a simple screening test for measuring plasma cortisol which was published as ‘A simple fluorimetric method for the estimation of free 11-hyhydroxycorticoids in human plasma’ (J clin path, 1962, 15, 374) and was used all over the world as the paper became internationally cited.

In 1963, Mattingly left London to return to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and to become founding director of a postgraduate medical institute attached to the recently founded (1955) University of Exeter. Funding from the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust was only guaranteed for five years and the accommodation was a wooden hut in the hospital grounds. He quickly built up a reputation in teaching and research and, when the original funding expired, the university agreed to fund the institute in perpetuity, although no funding was then available from the University Grants Committee. Uniquely, at that time in the UK, he was appointed professor of postgraduate medical studies in 1973.

During his time at Exeter, the postgraduate medical school became a model for several others in the country – for example at Keele, Hull, Bournemouth and Plymouth. Together with Charles Seward, he wrote Bedside diagnosis (Edinburgh, London, Livingstone, 1949) which ran to 13 editions. He also contributed a chapter on ‘Disorders of the adrenal cortex and pituitary gland’ to Baron, D N, Compston N, and Dawson, A M (eds), Recent advances in medicine (London, Churchill, 1968). It was notable that the first three books on vocational training for general practice came from his department and he was made an honorary fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

In 1956, he married Rosemary Joyce née Willing, who was also a doctor at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. Her father, Richard Rogers Willing, was a veterinary surgeon.

He was a keen tennis player and was also interested in ventriloquism and conjuring. When he died he was survived by Rosemary and their three children.

RCP Editor

[The Times 21 April 2009]

(Volume XII, page web)

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