Lives of the fellows

Samuel Griffith Owen

b.3 September 1925 d.5 June 2010
CBE(1977) MB BS Durham(1948) MRCP(1951) MD(1955) FRCP(1965)

Samuel Griffith Owen (‘Griff’) was a consultant physician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), Newcastle upon Tyne and second secretary of the Medical Research Council. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, he was the son of Evan Lewis Owen, a Clerk in Holy Orders, and his wife, Marjorie née Lawton, whose father Samuel was a cutler and silversmith. Educated at Dame Allen’s School, he studied medicine at Durham University and the RVI. Qualifying in 1948, he did house jobs at the RVI before joining the RAMC in 1949 to do his National Service. He served as a senior medical officer on troopships for two years.

On demobilisation he returned to the RVI for a while before joining the staff of the National Heart Hospital in London, where he was greatly influenced by Paul Wood [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.456]. Leaving there, he travelled to the USA and was an instructor in pharmacology at the Pennsylvania University School of Medicine from 1954 to 1956.

Returning to Newcastle, he was appointed a consultant physician at the RVI in 1960 and a senior lecturer in medicine at the university the following year. In 1964 he became academic sub-dean to the faculty of medicine at Newcastle University and was a regular examiner in the qualifying examinations for many other UK medical schools.

In 1968 he was appointed second secretary of the Medical Research Council. In this role (essentially deputy to the secretary) he showed considerable administrative and negotiating skills. Such was his reputation that he was made a CBE in 1977 but, unfortunately, he was forced to retire due to illness, in 1982.

The Association of Physicians elected him as a member in 1965 and he held many important posts in the European Union including serving on the executive council of the European Science Foundation. A member of council of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council and the Northwest Thames Regional Health Authority, he was also a consultant to the World Health Organization.

A prolific author, he published numerous papers in cardiology, cerebral circulation, thyroid disease and medical education. He published two books, Essentials of cardiology (London, Lloyd-Luke, 1961) and Electrocardiography (London, English Universities Press, 1966) which both went to second editions. He also contributed various chapters in books and assisted the chief editor (John Walton) with many of the short entries for the first edition of the Oxford companion to medicine (Oxford, OUP, 1986).

He enjoyed playing squash and cricket, playing for the Victorians Cricket Club when he was in Newcastle.

In 1954 he married Ruth née Tate, the daughter of Merle Wesley Tate, a university professor. She was an American physician from Philadelphia who subsequently trained in anaesthesiology and became a consultant anaesthesiologist at Ealing and Hammersmith hospitals. They had two sons and two daughters. Ruth survived him, together with their children and grandchildren.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2010 341 5330 - accessed 5 May 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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