Lives of the fellows

Arthur Burrows

b.1 December 1885 d.14 October 1968
MRCS LRCP(1907) MB BS Lond(1910) MD(1913) DMRE Cantab(1925) MRCP(1927) FRCP(1945)

Arthur Burrows was born at Southend-on-Sea, the son of the proprietor of a local paper The Southend Standard. He was educated in Southend and became a student at the London Hospital in 1903. After qualification, one of his earlier appointments was clinical assistant to the Skin Department and subsequently he spent some months at a skin clinic in Bern. Returning to London he worked at the London Radium Institute. His interest in radiology continued throughout his life. In 1914 he was appointed to the Holt Radium Institute in Manchester and he also became Physician to the Christie Hospital. After ten years in Manchester he developed a blood dyscrasia and returned to Bern. As the condition of his blood did not improve he took a sea voyage to South Africa where he was offered a radiotherapy appointment which he refused. He visited Australia and New Zealand and by the time he returned to England his blood condition had improved. In 1927 he accepted an offer to return to Australia to organize radium therapy. He became Adviser in Radium and Cancer to the Australian Government and Honorary Physician to the Queanbeyan District Hospital, Canberra. He became a Member of the Royal Society of Australia and a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

After three years in Australia he returned to England and worked again in the Skin Department of the London Hospital. He was elected Assistant Physician to the Department on 6 December, 1933. During the second world war, while O’Donovan served in the Army, Burrows took charge of the Department. He was also Consultant Dermatologist to the Emergency Medical Service. He was Secretary of the Dermatological Section of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1944 to 1946.

Burrows resigned from the London Hospital in 1947, as he also did from his other appointments - as Physician to the London Skin Hospital in Fitzroy Square, and as Consultant in Dermatology to the Southend General Hospital and to the West London Hospital. Subsequently he returned to Australia where he continued to practise as a consultant in dermatology until ill health forced him to give up. He died in Canberra.

As often becomes the short of stature, Arthur Burrows was conscious of it even to the point of regarding it as a disability, if not a deformity, although he made merry of his baldness and was fond of reciting instances when patients sought his help as a dermatologist to cure their own baldness; on these occasions he was able to shift his own embarrassment on to the patient. He was a ready wit, full of fun, and at times mischievous. Thus, when he was a young casualty officer at the London Hospital and perplexed over the diagnosis of a patient’s illness, he referred him for an opinion by a physician to the Outpatients’ department, labelling the condition as ‘Brown’s Disease’. The answer came back that ‘it could well be’. He read widely and his general knowledge was profound. Should uncertainty cloud any part of a discussion he would instantly hie to consult a volume of the British Encyclopaedia. He was happy at carpentry, and in his work-shed he made several elegant units of furniture.

He was steeped in the affairs of Essex, a county where his father had chaired the Council for many years. A brother, Sir Roland Burrows, was an eminent barrister, while two other brothers conducted the affairs of the Southend Standard, one of them becoming the chairman of the newly built Southend General Hospital. It was largely due to the combined efforts of this family in their separate capacities that general practitioners who had managed the old hospital gave way to young London consultants, and it was Arthur who canvassed applicants to fill the posts in the Hospital’s special departments.

His other major contribution to medicine was the introduction of radium to Australia, where he had journeyed to recuperate from his radium anaemia, and he instructed physicians there on its application in dermatology.

He had no enemies, for he kept his friendships in constant repair.

Brian Russell
William Evans

[Brit.med.J., 1968, 4, 521]

(Volume VI, page 77)

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