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Ulster Med J. 2010 January; 79(1): 43–44.
PMCID: PMC2938989

A PHYSICIAN IN SPITE OF HIMSELF

Reviewed by Dr Martin McGovern

A PHYSICIAN IN SPITE OF HIMSELF.
D.W. Carmalt Jones.  The Royal Society of Medicine Press.  2009. Hardback.  268pp. £ 35.00 ISBN:  978-1-85515-905-3.
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This high quality hardback publication from the Royal Society of Medicine Press is the first volume in a new series “Lives in Medicine” and recounts the life of London-born physician and polymath Dudley William Carmalt Jones (1874–1957), based largely on his hitherto unpublished autobiography.

From a Victorian upper middle class background, he read Classics at Oxford and qualified at St. Mary's Hospital medical school. Appointed Casualty Physician at St. Mary's in 1907, he also worked under Sir Almroth Wright in the Inoculation Department where he developed an interest in vaccine therapy. There he befriended Alexander Fleming and also met Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich who visited the department, although no anecdotes of these encounters are provided. He does recall how a discussion between Sir Almroth Wright and George Bernard Shaw provided material for Shaw's play “The Doctor's Dilemma”.

In 1909 he visited Belfast to present two papers on vaccine therapy at the BMA annual meeting, which was chaired by Sir William Whitla. Having moved to the Westminster Hospital, where he was appointed Dean of the medical school, his career was interrupted by the first world war. As a member of the Territorial Force (now the Territorial Army) he was mobilised and served in the RAMC in France, Egypt and Palestine.

A chance meeting with ANZAC doctors in the Middle East was to prove pivotal and in 1919, following demobilisation, he was encouraged to apply for the Chair of Systematic Medicine at the University of Otago in New Zealand. He was duly appointed and continued in this academic post until his retirement in 1939.

The University of Otago at Dunedin on the South Island was founded by the Presbyterian Church and medical teaching there derived from Edinburgh (Duneideann is the Gaelic name for Edinburgh). In the 1920's, academic staff were largely drawn from the British Isles. The Dean of the Medical School was a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and a sub-Dean, Dr Murray Drennan, returned from New Zealand in 1928 to take the Chair in Pathology at Queen's University Belfast.

We are provided with an account of expatriate life in this remote corner of the Empire in the post-war period and during the Depression. This antipodean translocation took its toll on his personal life as his wife and children returned to England within five years and the marriage ended. He immersed himself in university life but in time became disenchanted with teaching and bemoaned the loss of clinical skills which he felt were eroded by the emergence of radiology and laboratory medicine.

A keen fisherman for many years, he tired also of this and turned to sketching and writing poetry. With his classical education he was a scholar first and doctor second and could quote Shakespeare, Milton and Tennyson at length. In retirement he wrote a history of the University of Otago medical school and also published a collection of reminiscence, verse, drawings and paintings.

The most interesting portion of this book recalls his wartime experiences and one senses here a man torn between trying to be a humane physician while discharging his duty, which was ultimately to get wounded men back to the front. His work in the RAMC was, he felt, the most useful clinical work that he had done. A man of many parts, then; and a physician in spite of himself? The book's title reflects how his career pathway was determined more by default than design, as he had gone up to Oxford with the intention of becoming a schoolmaster.


Articles from The Ulster Medical Journal are provided here courtesy of Ulster Medical Society