Lives of the fellows

Philip Markman

b.24 August 1929 d.30 June 2016
MB ChB Cape Town(1952) FCP SA(1957) MRCP(1958) MRCP Edin(1959) FRCP Edin(1973) FRCP(1975) MD(1981)

Philip Markman spent the majority of his medical career as a general physician in Manchester, although the early part of his working life was spent in the country of his birth, South Africa. Philip was born in the small town of Humansdorp, on the Eastern Cape. His mother died when he was only four years old, so he was brought up by his father Adolph, of whom he always spoke with great affection. Philip’s first language was Afrikaans and, having received feedback from teachers that his English needed some improvement, he was advised by his father (who spoke eight languages fluently) that reading English literature was the best way of mastering the language. Thus, the seeds were sown for a lifelong passion for literature and poetry in particular, but also for collecting books of every kind.

When Philip was eight years old, his father was invited by the South African government to travel abroad to support expanding markets for the country’s exports. Philip attended Grey School in Port Elizabeth as a boarder. He often spoke of his school days, the eccentricities of the public school system, the importance of close friendships and the key role of some teachers in his early life.

To enter any profession other than medicine never seemed to have occurred to him, so in 1947 he attended medical school at the University of Cape Town. A university known for its more liberal stance, Philip and other fellow students would occasionally teach maths and science to African children in the townships – an activity that was certainly frowned upon by the Apartheid government.

Philip’s father died suddenly in 1949 from heart disease when Philip was just 19, however, his father’s influence was evident throughout the remainder of his life. He graduated in 1952 and continued on to postgraduate training in general medicine and cardiology, initially at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. It was there that he met Christiaan Barnard. Together with a colleague, Philip translated Barnard’s MD thesis from Afrikaans into English.

In 1957 he attained his fellowship of the College of Physicians of South Africa, and in 1958 he went to England to sit the examination for his membership of the Royal College of Physicians, which he passed. A year later he achieved his membership of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. While in the UK he met Ann Lurie and they married in 1959.

In 1960 Philip and Ann returned to South Africa. They remained there for a little over a year, leaving shortly after the birth to their daughter. They had both become increasingly angered and distressed by the political situation and social conditions in South Africa, so they had little hesitation in moving permanently to England, settling in Manchester. Within a year of their return to the UK, Ann gave birth to their son.

In 1962 Philip was appointed as a senior registrar in cardiology at Manchester Royal Infirmary and, three years later, in 1965, he took up the position of consultant physician and cardiologist at North Manchester General Hospital and the Northern Hospital. He remained there until his retirement in 1994. Philip was also an honorary lecturer in medicine and an undergraduate clinical tutor at the University of Manchester until his retirement.

He gained his fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1973 and of the Royal College of Physicians in 1975. He was president of the section of medicine of Manchester Medical Society from 1985 to 1986 and was made a life fellow in 1997. Having written his thesis in the mid 1960s, he and Ann returned to South Africa for one final time in 1981, when he was finally awarded his MD by the University of Cape Town for his work on atrial septal defect.

As well as a passion for literature, Philip had a lifelong interest in the history of medicine, and he was a regular contributor to the British Medical Journal’s ‘reading for pleasure’ column, where he wrote a number of book reviews.

Not least, due to his family history of cardiovascular disease, and his belief in the importance of good physical well-being, Philip maintained an enthusiasm for physical fitness throughout his life. He ensured that he exercised daily, and was a particularly strong walker, making the most of the countryside near his home. These activities, alongside the support of Ann and his friends, were particularly important in helping him recover from a depressive illness in the 1970s – an experience he felt it important to be open about at a time when the stigma of mental ill health was still rife.

Despite his relatively small stature, Philip had always enjoyed playing rugby union at both school and university, and he subsequently became an avid spectator, watching both rugby and cricket whenever he could. He was delighted to see the end of the sports boycott of South Africa, and when Nelson Mandela presented the rugby world cup to the South African Springbok captain in 1995, he was moved to tears. He told his children that he never thought he would live to see a black president of South Africa.

When Ann became more disabled in recent years, Philip supported her at home for as long as his own health would allow. When this was no longer possible, he spent every day with her without fail until, three years later, he became terminally ill. He was always a firm advocate of the National Health Service and, when he himself experienced ill health, had every confidence that he would get the best care possible.

Philip will be remembered as an astute and thorough clinician, a much-valued colleague, and a popular mentor to generations of medical students. He loved his work. He was always unassuming and approachable: a university friend described him as a man of modesty, great sweetness of character and of utter integrity.

After a short illness, Philip died peacefully with his close family at his side.

Diana Markman

[BMJ 2016 355 6304 – accessed 30 November 2017]

(Volume XII, page web)

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