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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 September 8; 335(7618): 519.
PMCID: PMC1971208

Harold Gordon Mather

Gordon Mather was born in Sheffield; his father, as well as continuing to run the family cutlery firm, trained as an osteopath in midlife and was a pioneer of vegetarianism. Gordon's medical career was more mainstream: a first in natural sciences at Cambridge then clinical studies at King's. From there he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation studentship to Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, where he qualified MD. As this was wartime, during the crossing in a convoy he was the acting medical officer on the ship, and was also made part of the crew of a gun. On return after Cambridge finals and house jobs he did his national service with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Singapore and Calcutta, returning to King's as a registrar and subsequently senior registrar. Working with Dr Clifford Hoyle he became interested in, and published several papers on, different aspects of sarcoidosis, which was also the subject of the thesis for his Cambridge MD awarded in 1954.

In 1956 Gordon was appointed consultant physician at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, where he worked in general medicine with a special interest in cardiology. He was instrumental in developing cardiac services and responsible for setting up the first intensive care unit in the south west of England after visiting a number of such units in the United States and Canada. He was a keen teacher of junior doctors and subsequently undergraduates when Southmead became a teaching hospital, and his wisdom, humanity, and clinical acumen are remembered by the very many who had the good fortune to be exposed to them. He remained interested in research and jointly set up a foundation to support the research efforts of junior staff. His most controversial research was a Department of Health funded project supported by Professor Archie Cochrane. Gordon set up a randomised controlled trial comparing home and hospital care for patients with myocardial infarction, which showed that at that time (the early 1970s), when there were comparatively few useful interventions, uncomplicated cases, particularly in patients over 60, fared rather better under home care.

Gordon was generous with his time, not only in medical training and education but also in serving on hospital management committees and chairing his hospital medical advisory committee. He was active in the British Cardiac Society and the Association of Physicians, and became president of the Bristol division of the BMA. After retirement from the NHS in 1986 he continued for some years in private practice and as a member of medical appeal tribunals in south west England and Wales, as well as being active in charity and education work.

Gordon met his wife Betty (née Mather, no relation and from the other end of the country) when she was a medical student at King's. The coincidence of their names led to their introduction, their marriage in 1949, and 57 years of happy marriage. They travelled extensively together, to academic meetings and for pleasure, and shared a love of the sea and sailing and the mountains and winter sports. Together they took great delight in their growing family. Gordon was playing tennis and golf to within a couple of years of his death. He leaves his wife, three sons, eight grandchildren, and a great-grandchild, who was born and whom he met shortly before he died.


Former consultant physician Southmead Hospital, Bristol (b 1921; Cambridge/King's College Hospital, London, 1946; MD, FRCP), died from cerebrovascular disease on 13 July 2007.

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