Lives of the fellows

Richard Langton Hewer

b.29 March 1930 d.15 April 2014
MB BS Lond(1956) MRCP(1962) FRCP(1975)

Richard Langton Hewer was a consultant neurologist in Bristol. Born in London, he came from a strongly medical family; his great grandfather (John Henry Hewer) and grandfather (Joseph Langton Hewer FRCS) were surgeons and his father, Christopher Langton Hewer FFARCS, was a distinguished consultant anaesthetist. He attended St Lawrence College, Ramsgate and, when he left, joined the RAF in 1948 to do his National Service.

On demobilisation he studied medicine at London University and St Bartholomew’s Hospital (Barts). He qualified in 1956 and did house jobs in the medical and surgical units at Barts. In 1958 he joined the staff of the National Hospital, Queen Square and stayed there for two years as house physician. Appointed senior registrar in the department of neurology at Oxford University in 1965, he remained there until 1968 when he became a consultant neurologist to the United Bristol Hospitals and South West Regional Hospital board and a lecturer at the University of Bristol. Eventually he became professor of neurology at the university, a lecturer at Green College, Oxford and a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam.

Throughout his career he was very aware of the social effects of some neurological disorders and was ahead of his time in pioneering the patient centred approach. As a registrar he became interested in the inherited neurological degenerative disease known as Friedreich’s ataxia. It was not only the neurobiology of the condition that concerned him, but also the long term effects on sufferers and their families. In 1964 he founded the Friedreich’s Ataxia Group and was its chairman for nine years. He was similarly concerned with the problems of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and, in 1978, began running a follow up clinic which addressed the practical issues of living with the disorder. A friend suggested that his empathy with the sufferer’s point of view might well have been enhanced by his own experience as a patient after suffering a subdural haemorrhage as a result of a motor cycle accident.

One of the first clinicians of his day to collect and use routine patient data, in 1980 he began to collect information on the problems of living with MS using the Barthel activities of daily living index. Also, having founded the Bristol Stroke Research Unit of which he became director, he was able to compile an immensely useful database on the natural history of recovery after stroke. The data he amassed was very helpful when he became a contributor to Physical disability: 1986 and beyond an important booklet on the management of people with long term conditions that was published by the Royal College of Physicians of London in July 1986 and remained relevant for many years.

He was a member of the Association of British Neurologists and they presented him with their medal in 2007 for his many achievements. Outside medicine, he enjoyed sailing and listening to music.

In 1958 he married Jane Ann (known as Ann) née Wotherspoon, the daughter of Robert Aitchison Wotherspoon, a representative. When he died, Ann survived him, together with their children, Jane, Simon and Sarah, and grandchildren, Ben, Adam, Jonathan, Phoebe, Oscar, Rosie and Tom.

RCP editor

[Physical disability: 1986 and beyond J R Coll Physicians Lond 1986 20 160-194 1986; ABN medallist 2007 J neurol neurosurg psychiatry 2008 79 338-362]

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(Volume XII, page web)

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