Lives of the fellows

Ernest Bulmer

b.27 July 1900 d.2 June 1967
OBE(1943) CBE(1945) TD Legion of Merit MB ChB Edin(1922) MRCPE(1924) MD(1925) MRCP(1926) FRCP(1936) FRCPE(1948)

Ernest Bulmer was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the son of Septimus Bulmer, a manufacturer of rope machines. His mother Lilian was a Glover from South Shields, and her family had interests in shipping as well as a strong Baptist connection, an uncle being T.R. Glover of Cambridge. He was educated at Dr. Ehrlich’s School and the University of Edinburgh, achieving Distinction and 2nd Class Honours in the Final MB. Three years later he was specially commended in the MD. After hospital posts and a year in Paris he went to Birmingham as RMO at the General Hospital and in a year was appointed Assistant Physician at the age of twenty-five. He continued to serve there and in the United Birmingham Hospitals until his retirement forty years later.

He was essentially a general physician and rapidly developed a large practice, but his special interest was in gastroenterology in which subject he made contributions on haematemesis, gastroscopy and ulcerative colitis. He was a founder member of the Society of British Gastroenterologists and President in 1961. He was consulting physician to many of the hospitals around Birmingham and was especially devoted to the Corbett Hospital at Stourbridge. His teaching was both practical and stimulating and he held posts in the Medical School in various capacities, including for many years the chairmanship of the Board of Clinical Studies. He was popular and successful in arousing the enthusiasm of medical and dental students. He was a member of various medical societies and served as President of the Midland Medical Society (1959) and of the Association of Physicians (1962), and he held high offices in the British Medical Association. After the war he took full part in the administration of the United Birmingham Hospitals, and his two years as Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee and as a member of the Board of Governors showed both his executive ability and his cheerful relationship with his colleagues. He was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of both London and Edinburgh.

With the 1939-45 war Bulmer found himself fully involved as an original member of the 14th Birmingham Territorial Hospital and he served with the BEF in France. Later he was officer in charge of the Medical Division of the No.2 General Hospital (Egypt) and received the OBE for his services there. After further appointments in England he was made consulting physician in 1944 to the 21st Army Group as Brigadier and received the CBE for these services in NW Europe. He was mentioned in despatches and received the United States’ Legion of Merit personally from General Eisenhower.

On his return to civilian life he soon picked up his hospital, teaching and private practices, and his undiminished energy and dynamic personality were of the greatest value as medical life returned to normal and the National Health Service was inaugurated. His personality was exuberant and youthful. His lucidity of expression and sense of humour were always refreshing. He served on many committees in the hospital and medical school. He expounded the cause of medical social workers and their training. He developed a special liaison with Professor John Squire of the Department of Experimental Pathology, and appointed a series of postgraduate registrars jointly in clinical medicine and in the research laboratories.

In 1927 Bulmer married Dr. Eileen Wake, a former fellow resident at the General Hospital, and they had one son who became a brilliant biometrician. His home life was happy and full of interest - art, antiques and foreign travel. He was a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Warwick. The last few years of his life were unhappily marred by the development of intractable asthma which was both distressing and incapacitating. His exuberant spirit helped him in this difficult time but he was deprived of the travel and intellectual pursuits to which he had looked forward in his retirement and which he so thoroughly enjoyed.

A Brian Taylor

[, 1967, 1, 771; Lancet, 1967, 1, 1281]

(Volume VI, page 74)

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