Fantastic Finds for Friday: Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain

Our Fantastic Finds for Friday this week follows up the sad news last week of the death of former RCOG President, Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain. Knowing from my previous trawls through the archive that Professor Chamberlain had a choice way with words, I sought out a file of his personal correspondence, collated between 1993 and 1994 when he was College President. I was not disappointed, as the extracts below will show!

November 1993 – on agreeing to undertake a talk at the RCOG for first-year preclinical students on the history of medicine for the Wellcome Trust/Society of Apothecaries course: ‘I would, of course, be happy to meet your students at the museum of the RCOG…I will keep about an hour clear and will take them through the stories of obstetrics, called by polite people history.’

November 1993 – in reply to a congratulatory letter from Arnold Klopper FRCOG, an old friend: ‘I am aware of the problems of medicine at the moment. These are being forced down my neck like a cold snowball every day by the Department of Health removal of central control and rushing head long down the hill like the swine after market forces. I shall fight them, for I have basically a socialist background and will try to ensure that the College maintains standards.’

April 1994 – on providing a testimony for Angela Kilmartin, a pioneer in research into cystitis, he wrote: ‘I enclose a foreword for her book. I did write an earlier version of this, but the dictation tape got de-magnetised and in consequence it could not be heard by my staff. That is a modern variation on the fact that the manuscript was eaten by a dog.’

My favourite piece from this file (and the one which brought a smile to my face and a glance down at my own feet) is the page torn out from the Daily Mail, April 1994, with a fashion article about the wearers of Doctor Marten boots. And as can be seen below, our own Professor Chamberlain was included as a dedicated DM wearer! He explains in the article that ‘I bought my first pair four years ago. A doctor is on his feet a lot and Doctor Marten’s are jolly comfortable. The other consultants were very complimentary. I’ve also got a pair of DM evening shoes which I use for dancing. The image of the football fan with metal caps is one end of the range. This is the other end.’

Professor Chamberlain



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