Lives of the fellows

Peter Vincent Suckling

b.1915 d.6 May 1990
MB BS Lond MRCS LRCP MRCP(1948) MD(1954) DHC FRCP(1983)

Peter Vincent Suckling was a paediatrician in South Africa. Born in Margate, England, his father was a local GP. His grandfather had been a professor of medicine at the University of Birmingham. He studied medicine at London University and University College Hospital.

During the Second World War he joined the RAF as a medical officer and was posted to Singapore. In the course of his journey there, his orders were changed and he was sent instead to work in flying schools in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. While there he met his wife and decided to settle in her country, enthusiastically taking Afrikaans classes.

Initially he joined the department of paediatrics and child health at the University of Cape Town (UCT), while he was an unpaid assistant at Groote Schuur and Peninsula Maternity hospitals and worked his way up to senior levels. In the early years he conducted research into aspects of kwashiorkor and wrote a thesis entitled Malnutrition with oedema in coloured children in the Cape of Good Hope. For this research, London University awarded him their MD in 1954.

He maintained his contact with the department at UCT all his life and was still an active member of the staff until a few days before his death. He was renowned for his encyclopaedic knowledge, which ranged from the common disorders of children to rare metabolic disorders. Popular as a clinician and teacher, he also ran a large successful private practice. He apparently regarded his greatest challenge as being the transference of first world paediatrics to third world conditions.

With a keen sense of social responsibility and sensitive to the suffering of the poor, he joined with others to found the Sarah Fox Convalescent Home for disadvantaged coloured children and was one of the original members of the Round Table No 9. Many causes involving the health of children benefited from his support. An active member of the Medical Association of South Africa, he was also associated with the South African Paediatric Association, and took a special interest in the department of paediatrics at Victoria Hospital which was a satellite teaching department of UCT.

He loved cricket and also had a vast store of information relating to British locomotives and railway timetables. Very knowledgeable about plants, he was a keen gardener.

In 1942 he married Mary Esther née Silberbauer in Cape Town. She survived him, together with their six children and their grandchildren.

RCP editor

[SAMJ – accessed 1 July 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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