Lives of the fellows

Dorothy Helen Heard

b.1 August 1916 d.20 January 2015
MRCS LRCP(1941) MB BS Lond(1942) MRCP(1944) PhD Cantab(1953) MRCPsych(1971) FRCPsych(1974) FRCP(1976)

Dorothy Heard was a consultant psychiatrist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. She was born Dorothy Robertson in Limavady, Northern Ireland. Her father, Frank Lesley Robertson, was a metallurgist in the steel industry. Two of her paternal aunts were doctors who trained in the 1890s: Jane (Suttie) became a psychiatrist in Scotland and London, and Kay was a general practitioner in Northern Ireland. Another aunt, Muriel, a protozoologist chiefly known for her research on the parasites (trypanosomes) which cause illnesses such as sleeping sickness, was one of the first women to be elected as a fellow of the Royal Society. Heard was educated at Westbourne Gardens School, Glasgow, and Orme Girls’ School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, and then studied medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women. She qualified in 1941 with the conjoint examination.

She was a house physician to Sir Leonard Parsons [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.588] and then a house surgeon at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. In 1943 she became a senior house physician at North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, Stoke-on-Trent. Between 1944 and 1945 she was a medical registrar at the Three Counties Emergency Hospital at Arlesey in Bedfordshire. She gained her MRCP in 1944.

In May 1945 she married the Reverend Richard Grenville Heard, the dean of Peterhouse in Cambridge and a former prisoner of war who had been held in Colditz. Over the next seven years they had three daughters – Helen, Priscilla and Lesley. In 1952 her husband became ill with cancer and died quickly as a result of an embolism. Heard responded by finishing her PhD (on blood groups in rabbits) a year later and starting a full-time research post at the university, investigating the causes of cancer. She was also director of medical studies at Girton College, a post which included a house for her and her daughters.

In 1961 she was hospitalised with a perforated stomach ulcer and she realised she needed to change direction. She had long had an interest in psychosomatic disorders, and decided to visit the psychiatrist John Bowlby [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.49] at the Tavistock Clinic in London. She became a senior registrar there and eventually a consultant child psychiatrist.

In 1968 she decided to move back to Cambridge and commute. She also helped set up the psychotherapy department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, encouraging staff to consider the dynamics of the patients’ families.

In 1978 she met a fellow psychiatrist, Brian Lake, at a dinner party. They married a year later and moved to North Yorkshire, to be near Leeds for Lake’s work. They also established a private practice together and worked on extending Bowlby’s ideas about attachment. With Una McCluskey, they wrote Attachment therapy with adolescents and adults: theory and practice post Bowlby (London, Karnac Books, 2009).

After Lake’s death in 2007, Heard moved to Bristol to be near her daughters. She maintained her interest in psychiatry and research: at the age of 94 she went to Portugal for a conference.

At the time of her election to the fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 1976 she listed gardening, needlework and music (piano) as her interests. She was also a talented cook.

Dorothy Heard was survived by her daughters.

RCP editor

[The Times 29 March 2015 – accessed 14 February 2017]

(Volume XII, page web)

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