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Biographical entry Richardson, John Samuel, Lord Richardson of Lee in the County of Devon (1910 - 2004)

Kt 1960; LVO 1943; MRCS 1935; Hon FRCS 1980; MB BCh Cambridge 1936; MD 1940; MRCP 1937; FRCP 1948; Hon FRPharms 1974; FRCP Edinburgh 1975; Hon FRCP Ireland 1975; Hon FFCM 1977; Hon FRCPsych 1979; Hon FRCPSG 1980.

16 June 1910
Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK
15 August 2004


John Samuel Richardson was a former President of the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association who inadvertently played a key role in the resignation of Macmillan in 1963. The son of a solicitor, he was born on 16 June 1910 in Sheffield, where his grandfather had been Lord Mayor, Master Cutler, an MP and Privy Councillor. He was educated at Charterhouse and Trinity College, Cambridge, going on to St Thomas’s to do his clinical studies, where he won the Bristowe medal and Hadden prize. After qualifying, he did his house jobs at St Thomas’s, winning the Perkins fellowship.

He served in the RAMC in North Africa with the rank of lieutenant colonel, and there, in 1943, was assigned to be physician in attendance to King George VI (whom he treated successfully for sunburn), on which occasion he met and treated Harold Macmillan, with whom he became a close friend.

After the war Richardson returned to St Thomas’s as a consultant physician, where he became very successful thanks to his considerable charm. In due course he became President of the General Medical Council, British Medical Association and the Royal Society of Medicine, and was the recipient of innumerable honours.

Rather unfairly he is probably remembered today not for his many and considerable contributions to his profession but for being on holiday when Harold Macmillan developed acute-on-chronic retention of urine, formed the (wrong) impression that he was going to die of cancer and handed over the reins of government to Alec Douglas Home.

Lord Richardson married the portrait painter Sybil Trist, who predeceased him. They had two daughters. He died on 15 August 2004.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Guardian 6 September 2004; The Daily Telegraph 19 August 2004.].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England