Lives of the fellows

Edwin George Bleakley Calvert

b.21 January 1893 d.1 August 1976
MB BCh BAO Belf(1915) MD(1920) DPH(1920) MRCP(1923) FRCP(1941)

Edwin Calvert was the eldest of the four children of James Calvert of Lyndhurst, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, and his wife, Anne, née Armstrong, daughter of George Armstrong, of Tullyweel House, Creagh, Fivemiletown, Co. Fermanagh. Both families had extensive farms, but James Calvert was not a farmer and became clerk of the union (a local government office) at Lurgan.

All the children took up the study of medicine. Edwin became a physician; his sister, Evelyn, became an anaesthetist and she married FMB Allen, the first professor of paediatrics at Belfast; the second son, Cecil, became a distinguished neurosurgeon, first at Belfast and later in the British army during the 1939 war - he was afterwards killed in a motor accident; the youngest brother, Howard, never qualified, as he left his medical studies in 1915 to join the army and was shot dead by the IRA during the rebellion in Ireland in 1916. The children’s interest in medicine was undoubtedly due to the influence of their mother; as a young married woman, she had taken a local child, who had been bitten by a rabid dog, to Pasteur’s clinic in Paris, where he was given a course of anti-rabies treatment. She had remained in Paris for the period of the inoculations and had been very kindly looked after by Pasteur.

Edwin Calvert was educated at Methodist College, Belfast, and entered the Queen’s University in 1910; there he had a brilliant academic career, obtaining a gold medal in anatomy and gold medals at the MB and MD examinations. On qualifying in 1915 he went into the army, and subsequently served with the 6th battalion Northumberland Fusiliers till the end of the war.

After demobilization he returned to Belfast and was appointed lecturer in the department of physiology, where he worked chiefly in biochemistry. In the following year he obtained an appointment as assistant in the newly established professorial unit at St Mary’s Hospital, London, under Frederick Langmead, and remained there for five years, his work including the biochemistry and other clinical pathology of the unit; during this period insulin was introduced, and in 1923 Calvert published an improved method of estimating blood sugar (Biochem. J., 1923/24).

In 1925 he resigned from St Mary’s and obtained appointments as honorary physician first at the Temperance Hospital and then at the Northern (later Royal Northern) Hospital, and to both of these he gave a lifetime of devoted service; he was also consulting physician to the Samaritan and City of London Maternity Hospitals.

For many years he contributed to successive editions of Pye’s Surgical Handicraft the chapters on examination of the urine and on kidney function tests, and his writings in various journals were on diabetes, kidney disease, endocrine disorders and rheumatoid arthritis.

Calvert continued in private practice long after retirement from his hospitals, but late in life he went to live at Barton-on-sea where he enjoyed his golf and gardening and took up painting. He died in consequence of a head injury which he sustained on the previous day by tripping on the kerb in Barton village. Calvert was a gentle and modest person, very thorough in all his work, and somewhat slow of speech even for an Ulsterman. He married in 1928 Nancy, daughter of CW Narsden of Sydney and (temporarily) of Park Place, St James’s, and the ceremony took place at All Souls’, Langham Place, where his uncle had formerly been rector. They had one son and two daughters.

JP Martin

(Volume VII, page 80)

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