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BMJ. 2007 July 7; 335(7609): 51.
PMCID: PMC1910639

George Frank Newbold

George Newbold took up medicine after experience in the manufacture of flying boats, and in a solicitor's office, in his native Isle of Wight.

Fluent in French and German, he cycled extensively in Europe, but his tours came to an abrupt end in August 1939, when he realised that war was imminent and that some of his photographs, if discovered, would qualify him for the death penalty, reputedly by axe! His last stopover was at a youth hostel full of German soldiers, and he left to the sound of their friendly farewells, the incriminating films concealed in the tubular frame of his bicycle.

After an appointment as house surgeon to the late Ivor Back, at St George's, in 1945, he made moves in the direction of forensic medicine but eventually specialised in obstetrics. At Orsett Hospital he used hypnotism successfully in this field. He went on to use the skill more widely and became a leading exponent of the art, being much in demand for lectures and the co-author of the Handbook of Medical Hypnosis.

The years in obstetrics and gynaecology were followed by his appointment as senior medical officer in South Glamorgan Community Health Services, responsible for the health of generations of college and university students in several faculties. In vacations he took the opportunity to participate in seminars in Israel and elsewhere, and his wide circle of friends came to include not a few distinguished figures. He particularly prized his friendship with Paul Tournier, founder of the movement Médecine de la Personne, in whose proceedings Newbold played a notable part.

It was in pursuit of his interest in Biblical archaeology that he visited the Qumran caves and took a photograph of the Dead Sea which came to attract widespread curiosity: the rather featureless sea was shown dominated by a luminous cross rising from the water, an appearance which defied rational explanation when photographic experts failed to produce one or to find any fault in the film itself. Always interested in the paranormal, George might have accepted psychokinesis as the cause but for his certainty that he had not been thinking of the Cross of Christ when he clicked the shutter. He was profoundly affected when he learnt later that the date of the photograph, 14 September, coincided with that allotted in the Roman Catholic calendar to the Exaltation of the Cross.

In fact, thoughts of the Cross, and of its Occupant, were never very far from Newbold's mind. He was a lifelong member of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

He was a talented portrait artist. The gravity of his own aspect lent conviction to his advice, and there are many men and women who bless the day when they took their problems to a deeply compassionate man, who nevertheless had an impish sense of humour well-known to his friends.

He is survived by his wife, Molly, and their three children.


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