Lives of the fellows

Joseph Harold Angel

b.2 April 1923 d.1 May 2015
BA Cantab(1944) MB Chir(1948) MRCP(1954) MD(1959) FRCP(1973)

Joseph Angel, always known to friends and colleagues as ‘Joe’, was a consultant physician in chest diseases and general medicine at Watford General and Harefield hospitals. His early career had been remarkable. He was born in Leeds. His parents were Jewish; his father, Isador Angel, was of Sephardi origin, his mother, Cecilia Angel née Schapiro, was from Riga. They were not wealthy, but Joe won a scholarship to Doncaster Grammar School and a state scholarship, which enabled him to go to St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1941. In that year only 360 state scholarships were awarded in the whole country and nearly two thirds of St John’s students had been educated at independent schools.

Joe was an outstanding medical student, and one of only 29 (out of 239) who obtained first class honours in the natural sciences tripos in 1944. He went on for his clinical training to University College Hospital (UCH) and, after qualifying in 1948, held several junior hospital posts there. He did his National Service in the RAF (and was later amused to remember himself as ‘flying officer Angel’). Among his patients there were several who had taken part in the Berlin Airlift (from 1948 to 1949).

On demobilisation he held appointments at the Harefield, London Chest and Hammersmith hospitals, which were regarded as rungs on the ladder to consultant status. However, in those early years of the National Health Service there was a great disparity between the number of training posts and the number of consultant vacancies in medicine. Therefore Joe, like many of his contemporaries, decided to go to the USA. On the recommendation of Max Rosenheim [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.394], for whom he had worked at UCH, he was appointed as an assistant professor of medicine at the State University of New York in 1957. There he began to study the chemotherapy of pulmonary tuberculosis, which was to become his main research interest. It was the subject of his Cambridge MD thesis, for which he was awarded the Raymond Horton-Smith prize in 1959. In that year he returned to take up the post of medical officer to the World Health Organization/Medical Research Council Tuberculosis Research Unit, first in Madras for one and a half years and then at the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) laboratories in Hampstead, London. Many publications followed: he was the chief author of reports to the MRC on short-term chemotherapy in tuberculosis in 1962, 1965, 1968 and 1970. In 1964 he was appointed as a consultant physician at Watford and Harefield, where he remained until he retired in 1989.

The Angel family lived in France in the 1920s and Joe was at school there until he was eight. He had been very happy in France, and retained a love of the country, its language and its culture all his life. In the 1970s he and his wife Helen (née Goldberg), whom he married in 1962, bought an old stone farmhouse in the Dordogne, and the family enjoyed many holidays there.

He had many outside interests, most notably history. When he appeared on the Mastermind television programme in the 1980s, his subject was the Austrian Hapsburgs. It amused him afterwards to receive letters from people he hadn’t heard from in decades, and he was taken aback to be greeted effusively in the corridors of Watford General the day after the transmission.

He was a member of numerous societies, among them the British Thoracic Association, the Harveian Society, the Society of Apothecaries, the Anglo French Medical Society and the Beaufort Society of St John’s College.

In retirement, he enjoyed going to concerts and to the opera, and he found it interesting to become a student again, joining classes in literature and music.

He was survived by Helen, their daughter Jessica, their son Jonathan and their granddaughter Juliette.

Adolf Polak

(Volume XII, page web)

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