Lives of the fellows

Ernest Thomas Conybeare

b.25 November 1903 d.2 April 1979
CBE(1964) BSc Lond(1926) MRCS LRCP(1928) MB BS(1930) MRCP(1931) MD(1933) FRCP(1938)

Ernest Conybeare was born in Plymouth, the only son of William Conybeare, a coachbuilder, and his wife, formerly Edith Mary Miller. He was educated at the Hoe School and the Plymouth and Mannamead College in Plymouth, from where he went to Guy’s Hospital, qualifying in 1928. He had earlier taken the London BSc, with first class honours in physiology. When he proceeded to the MD in 1933, he was awarded the University gold medal.

At Guy’s he was assistant house surgeon, outpatient officer and house physician and, in 1931, was given a Rockefeller foundation fellowship, which he held at Johns Hopkins University, where he was John D Archbold Fellow in medicine. He returned to Guy’s Hospital as medical registrar from 1932 until 1936 and then joined the medical staff of the Ministry of Health, later the Department of Health and Social Security, where he remained for nearly forty years, attaining the rank of principal medical officer.

In the earlier part of his time at the Ministry of Health he functioned mainly as an epidemiologist and, among other tasks, was closely concerned with the investigation of the outbreak of typhoid in Croydon. Later he became an expert in the field of pharmacology and therapeutics. Most of his publications reflect these periods of his work, and among the more important are papers on ‘Encephalitis after Vaccination’ (Monthly Bull. Min. Public Health & Public Health Lab. Service, 1948, 7, 72, and 1956, 15, 40) and on ‘Tetanus’ (Brit. med. J., 1951, 1, 504 and Proc. Roy. Soc. Med., 1959, 52, 112). He was a skilful writer and for the last five years of his career he was associate editor of Prescribers Journal.

His excellent clinical knowledge, combined with considerable skill as a medical administrator, made him one of the most valued members of the medical staff of the Ministry of Health, and he received the CBE in 1964. He was a charming and helpful colleague to whom one could always turn for advice, and the value of his contributions was increased by the accuracy which distinguished all his work.

He was an enthusiastic player of tennis and hockey, activities which he pursued well into his fifties, and he also had an interest in music and the theatre. His manner was quiet, but he was the possessor of a delightfully dry sense of humour.

In 1938 he married Marjorie Deacon, daughter of Alexander John Blaikley, a banker; his brother, John Blaikley, was an obstetrician and gynaecologist and was superintendent of Guy’s Hospital from 1958 to 1966. He had two sons and two daughters, one of the sons being a consultant orthopaedic surgeon.

TJB Geffen

[Brit.med.J., 1979, 1, 1223]

(Volume VII, page 115)

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