Lives of the fellows

John Macfarlane Cliff

b.28 October 1921 d.3 July 1972
MRCS LRCP(1945) MB BChir Cantab(1945) MA(1947) MRCP(1953) FRCP(1966)

Surgeon Captain John Cliff, Professor of Naval Medicine, Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, died suddenly at the age of 50.

John had determined upon a career in medicine while at Bedford School, where he developed an enthusiasm for rugby that he carried with him to Christ’s College, Cambridge, and subsequently to St Thomas’s Hospital after graduating BA (Natural Science) pending MA 1947. He retained contact with many friends from his hospital days throughout his life and it was at St Thomas’s that his predominant interest in clinical medicine developed. After graduating MB BChir in 1945 he was a casualty officer in his own hospital and subsequently a house surgeon at Addenbrooke’s Hospital before being granted a commission in the RN Medical Service in August 1946.

His initial service at sea was aboard HMS Alert, the vessel from which the Commander in Chief Far East Station controlled his command. Frequent ports of call in this part of the globe for a period of two years left John with a wide circle of new friends and a deep abiding love of the service, which, combined with his enthusiasm for clinical work, determined the pattern of his subsequent career.

Returning to England he took the MRCP in 1953 and was elected FRCP in 1966. He served in the RN Hospitals, in Haslar and Plymouth, with a period in Malta until he was appointed Professor of Naval Medicine in 1971. He was awarded the Erroll-Eldridge Prize for the outstanding value of his published work to the health of the Navy in 1972.

John was a familiar figure in Naval medical gatherings, local medical meetings and in the College of Physicians, for which he had a deep affection. His broad medical interests took him into varied groups as a member of the Cardiological Association and as an associate member of the Gastroenterological Association. His publications covered an even wider scope, including Reiter’s disease, asthma, mediastinal emphysema and in recent years the problems of iatrogenic disease. Whenever one met John he had just come across a new fact, a new wine or a fresh piece of information about a disease and such was his zest for living that these demanded immediate expression to his friends and colleagues. His own enjoyment of life concealed many quiet and generous acts of kindness amongst his associates and in unexpected places.

His pleasure in acting as host with the aid of his wife Anne and son Eric, who survived him, was itself enjoyed by his many friends. It was characteristic that John’s illness began suddenly while greeting friends. He was to be sadly missed both professionally and as a brother officer in the Messes of the Royal Naval Medical Service.

PJ Preston

[Brit.med.J., 1972, 3, 295, 421; Lancet, 1972, 2, 286]

(Volume VI, page 105)

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