Lives of the fellows

Leonard Capper

b.20 April 1920 d.10 January 1997
MB BS Lond( 1943) MRCP(1949) FRCP(1974)

Leonard Capper was a consultant physician with a special interest in chest medicine who spent most of his career in the Blackpool area. He was born of Jewish parents in the East End of London. He first wanted to study law, but his family felt they weren’t able to support him financially in that profession. He finally decided on a medical career and entered King’s College Medical School. After clinical studies at the Westminster Hospital, he qualified in 1943.

Myopia caused him to fail his army medical. His first house job was at the Westminster’s wartime sector hospital in Staines. The next three years were spent at the London Chest Hospital where he was successively house surgeon, resident medical officer, and registrar. This was followed by five years at St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping, where he became a senior registrar in general medicine. He then obtained the post of senior registrar at the chest clinic in Cambridge, where after eighteen months he became assistant physician. This post included work with the cardio-thoracic unit at Papworth Hospital.

After three years in Cambridge he was appointed consultant chest physician to the Blackpool and Fylde Hospital Group. The remainder of his working life was spent in this hospital group. He was the first consultant and the first member of the Royal College of Physicians to take charge of the area’s chest services, to which he added a general physician’s experience and outlook.

For the first ten years of his appointment there were two cardio-thoracic surgeons working in the hospital but no cardiologist. In the absence of a fully trained cardiologist he became involved in the catheterization programme as well as the care of the cardio-thoracic beds. However, as he felt his background and training had not been specifically directed to this work, he was glad to relinquish it when a consultant cardiologist was appointed and he became officially what he had always been by temperament - a general physician with a special interest in thoracic medicine.

He did his fair share of committee work where he always fair minded, often persuasive and sometimes late for meetings. He always claimed his lateness was due to something on a ward which he felt had a higher priority than any committee, even if there were a number of his colleagues fretting in the committee room.

As the hospital expanded he managed to move the thoracic department to greatly improved quarters. He then persuaded some wealthy men in the town to equip a laboratory with apparatus for carrying out lung function tests.

He was an intellectual man, able, honourable and hard working. He met his wife Kate when she was a theatre sister at the London Chest Hospital. They shared a love of walking and the countryside and of music. They walked extensively. Ilkley to the Lakes, St Bees Head, Cumbria, to Scarborough were among their walks. After retiring he also took up the violin and reached grade eight. He enjoyed these activities during twelve years of retirement, until a short time before his death from carcinoma of the colon.

Ian Weinbren

[Brit.med.J.,1997,314,756]

(Volume X, page 57)

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