Lives of the fellows

Thomas Hancock Arnold Chaplin

b.30 August 1864 d.18 October 1944
BA Cantab(1886) MB(1889) MD FRCP(1902)

Arnold Chaplin was the youngest son of Abraham Thomas Chaplin, farmer and merchant, whose family, nonconformists, had been settled since the seventeenth century in the neighbourhood of Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, his own birthplace. Ten of his ancestors, indeed, had fought with Cromwell’s Ironsides. He himself was sent to school at Tettenhall College near Wolverhampton and Llandaff House, Cambridge. He matriculated at St. John's College in 1883 and took a degree in natural sciences three years later. He graduated in medicine after a further three years, having made his clinical studies at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. In the same year he became a house physician at the City of London Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, and in 1893 was appointed to its staff, from which he retired, twenty-nine years later, with the title of consulting physician. In 1894 he co-operated with Sir Andrew Clark and W. J. Hadley in publishing a textbook on Fibroid Diseases of the Lung, and in 1902 he joined with E. H. Colbeck in writing The Science and Art of Prescribing, which was reissued in a second edition. From 1893 to 1904 Chaplin was also associated with the East London Hospital for Children, and subsequently he held physician’s appointments to the Ventnor Consumption Hospital and the Eastern Dispensary. Chaplin practised in the City and acted as medical adviser to many City banks, commercial firms and shipping companies.

In spite of his many commitments, Chaplin was able to indulge his taste for English and French historical literature and his love of old books and prints, to which his appointment as Harveian Librarian by the Royal College of Physicians in 1918 was admirably suited. He delivered the FitzPatrick Lectures in 1917-18 and the Harveian Oration in 1922. His studies of Napoleon’s exile on St. Helena — notably The Illness and Death of Napoleon Bonaparte (1913) and A St. Helena Who's Who (1919) — made his name known to a wider public. Precise and old-fashioned as a physician, he was gifted both with a dry humour and with a shrewdness that made him the ally of the true scholar but an enemy to the spurious. He married in 1909 Margaret Douie daughter of Dr. J. H. Robertson and widow of William Dougal; they had no children. He died at Bedford.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1944; B.M.J., 1944; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1945, 7; Al.Cantab., ii, 10]

(Volume IV, page 436)

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