Lives of the fellows

Andrew Barnett Christie

b.3 August 1909 d.27 October 1991
MA Aberd(1930) MB ChB(1935) DPH Lond(1937) MD(1939) DCH(1948) *FRCP(1972) FFCM(1972)

Barnett Christie was born and educated in Aberdeen. He attended Gordon’s College and first read classics at Aberdeen University; he also read law for a short time but finally decided that medicine was his calling and graduated in this discipline in 1935. At that time many Scottish physicians were working in public health and infectious diseases in England and Barnett decided to specialize in this field of medicine, working in the Eastern Hospital, London, from 1937-39. During the war he was medical superintendent at the Westcliff Hospital, Southend on Sea, and was also officer in charge of air raid precautions, Westcliff Section.

In 1946 he was appointed physician superintendent at Fazakerley Hospital, Liverpool, where he remained until his retirement in 1974. He was head of the department of infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool during this time and although the department was small it had, and continues to have, a large teaching load. In his early years at Liverpool many infectious diseases, particularly in children, were only just coming under control and doctors had to contend with epidemics of measles, whooping cough and poliomyelitis. The regional centre for the treatment of respiratory poliomyelitis was set up at Fazakerley Hospital under Barnett’s guidance. The unit served Merseyside and North Wales and provided the most up to date and efficient means of prolonged artificial respiration for those adults and children paralysed by the infection.

With the gradual control of such epidemic diseases the clinical workload decreased and Barnett was able to devote more time to his writing, culminating in the publication of his best work; his classic textbook Infectious diseases: epidemiology and clinical practice, Edinburgh, Livingstone, 1969. A single author volume of over 1000 pages, with extensive references, it was an authoritative and beautifully written account of infectious diseases throughout the world. There were four subsequent editions, three in English - the last in 1987 - and one in Italian in 1974. This was his outstanding achievement, although he had been a writer since boyhood and his love of the craft lasted all his life.

He was a prolific contributor to journals and textbooks on infectious diseases and public health matters. He wrote a short textbook for nurses which went into five editions, Infectious diseases, with chapters on venereal diseases, London, Faber and Faber, 5th edition 1968, and shared authorship with his daughter, Mary, of a book entitled Food hygiene and food hazards for all who handle food, London, Faber and Faber, 1971.

In all this Barnett was greatly encouraged by his wife Nina, whom he married in 1939. She even learned to type to help him prepare his manuscripts. After his retirement from Fazakerley Hospital in 1974 he continued to work, applying his experience to problems in the developing world. He carried out assignments with WHO and the British Council in Indonesia, the Eastern Mediterranean, Nigeria, Colombia and Peru. He worked in Libya; in Tripoli in 1975 at the Ministry of Health, and as professor of infectious diseases at Garyounis University in Benghazi in 1976. He taught and lectured all over the world, notably as the first Justus Strom lecturer in Stockholm, the first Macfarlane Burnet lecturer in Australia, and the Sydney Watson Smith lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

He also found time to look after his family - he had two sons and a daughter - and to indulge in numerous hobbies and interests which included oil painting, bee-keeping, wine making, music, ballet and travelling. This last interest produced another book, Motoring and camping in Greece, London, Faber and Faber, 1965. He was an active member of many societies, both national and local, being the first president of the British Society for the Study of Infection and founder chairman of the North West Epidemiology Club. The British Society founded a lectureship named in his honour, to encourage quality in the presentation of papers by younger members, and he was able to present the first award in April 1991.

Barnett Christie served his chosen specialty well - in his clinical practice, his teaching and lecturing and, above all, in his writing. His books will be his lasting memorial.

HE Parry

* Elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature.."

[Brit.med.J., 1992,304,443]

(Volume IX, page 86)

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