b.25 November 1917 d.25 January 1980
BA Cantab(1939) MRCS LRCP(1942) MB BChir(1942) MD(1948) FRCPC(1954) FACP(1964) FRCP*(1976)
Geoffrey Ffrench led a peripatetic life till 1968, when he established himself at the Central Middlesex Hospital as consultant physician in industrial medicine. He was born in Dublin, the son of Ernest George Ffrench, a physician and member of the College, and was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1942, taking his MD in 1948.
In 1942 Ffrench joined the RAF, seeing service in Burma, where he wrote the basis of his MD thesis on Acute and Chronic Diseases of the External Ear. He returned to settle down at Tenby until 1948, when he went to the Camp Hill Hospital, Nova Scotia, as junior physician. This was followed by a few years in the Kolar goldfields in South India, and a spell as consultant physician in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, from 1953 to 1959. This wide experience of all sorts and conditions of men made him a sound choice to assist in the opening of a medical school in Ghana in 1960. Unfortunately, for political reasons, the project did not get off the ground.
In 1961 his interest in occupational health was stimulated by his appointment as consultant in medicine to the Kuwait Oil Company. He held this post until 1968, when he returned to England to take up his appointment at the Central Middlesex Hospital. In 1979 he retired from the directorship of the unit but continued as a consultant. In this busy general hospital, surrounded by extensive light industries, he was invariably helpful in resettling the chronic bronchitic, the diabetic and the heart cases.
He had wide general medical knowledge and fresh ideas, bringing light into the life of many colleagues. His papers ranged from ankylosing spondylitis to toxoplasmosis. His last volume on occupational disease did not command the medical interest it might have, being directed towards the enlightened business manager. This would have been rectified in a new book which he was preparing at the time of his death.
Geoffrey Ffrench had a large presence, not only mental but physical, which inspired confidence, and his personality was warm and charming. He had great vitality and wide interests. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a member of the Medical Geography Study Group of the Institute of British Geographers, and enjoyed travel, writing, and woodwork. He was especially interested in geographical diseases and the part played by trace elements.
In 1942 he married Marjorie Grace, daughter of William Ewart Godfrey, and they had four children: two sons and two daughters. Despite his total commitment to his professional life, he was able to enjoy a happy family life with his wife and children in rural Kent. In the face of the overwhelming nature of his final disease he was an optimist, working and planning for the future, and extracting a wry humour from the fact that the rare sarcoma of the lung, which eventually killed him, stimulated medical interest. He was brave, interesting, and interested, to the end.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
* Elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature.."
[Brit.med.J., 1980, 280, 728, 875; Lancet, 1980, 1, 496]
(Volume VII, page 188)
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