Lives of the fellows

Irving Gilbert

b.8 May 1916 d.20 July 2010
MRCS LRCP(1940) MB BS Lond(1940) MRCP(1948) MD(1949) FRCP(1972)

Irving Gilbert was a consultant physician at Basildon, Orsett and Billericay hospitals, Essex. He was born Israel Gelbart in London. His father, Nehemiah Gelbart, was a tailor who had been an active member of the secular Jewish labour movement in Poland and had emigrated to Britain with his wife Esther Gelbart née Pleeth in the early 1900s.

Irving was brought up in the East End, in Settles Street just off the Commercial Road, attending Myrdle Street School and then the Davenant Foundation School. His mother died when he was just 12, and he and his younger sister Eve were largely brought up by their older sister Jean.

In 1934 Irving began his studies at the London Hospital Medical School, entering as a Price intercollegiate scholar. During his time at the London he won the Letheby prize for organic chemistry. He qualified in 1940.

He held house officer posts at Barkingside Hospital and then Mile End Hospital, working during the Blitz. At Mile End he was wounded when the hospital was bombed, a piece of shrapnel entering his buttock. He was called up in 1941, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a captain, and served in India and Burma.

Following his demobilisation, he worked in the London Jewish Hospital in Stepney Green and then as a registrar at Lambeth Hospital. He then moved to Billericay as a registrar and then to Orsett as a senior registrar. He was finally appointed as a consultant physician to the same group of hospitals in 1954. He stayed there until he retired in 1981.

He was a generalist, but maintained an interest in gastroenterology. He was skilled in the use of the Hermon-Taylor rigid gastroscope, and was among the first to use flexible gastroscopes when they were introduced in the UK. He was a founder member of the British Society for Digestive Endoscopy and of the British Society for Haematology.

Outside medicine he enjoyed gardening, Verdi’s operas and spending time with his family. He married Nettie Greenspan, the daughter of a company director, in 1942, two days before he was posted to India. She predeceased him in 2006 and he spent his final years in a Jewish nursing home. They had a son (Jonathan, who became a surgeon) and a daughter (Esther), who survived him, as did his six grandchildren (Oliver, Benjamin, Edward, Simon, Judith and Adam) and one great grand-daughter (Faye).

Jonathan Gilbert
Esther Rosten

[Brit.med.J., 2010 341 5076]

(Volume XII, page web)

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