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Biographical entry Smith, Eustace (1835 - 1914)

MRCS Nov 5th 1858; FRCS Dec 6th 1860; MD Lond 1865; FRCP Lond 1874; Chevalier of the Order of Leopold.

Born
24 October 1835
London
Died
14 November 1914
Occupation
Physician

Details

Born in London on Oct 24th, 1835, the third son of the Rev John Henry Smith, Vicar of Milverton, Warwickshire. One of his brothers was G Theyre Smith, the dramatist. He was educated at Leamington College, and received his professional training at University College, London, where he was a brilliant student. He also studied for a time in Paris. In 1870 he joined the staff of the East London Hospital for Children, Shadwell, and as early as 1874 became Senior Physician. During his earlier professional career he travelled for some time in the East as Physician to Leopold II, King of the Belgians, then Duke of Brabant.

Eustace Smith's name was long and intimately associated with the East London Hospital for Children, where he retained to the very last a vigorous open-mindedness which the youngest might envy, and which accorded well with his singularly youthful appearance. He was delighted when, as often happened, patients who had consulted him some twenty or thirty years earlier sought him out, and when confronted with him insisted that he must be his own son. "When I was a child", such a patient would say, "I was taken to see your father", and sometimes he did not trouble to disabuse them.

He was the permanent President at an Annual Dinner of past and present members of the staff of the hospital, and had not missed one of these gatherings in nineteen years. " Awaiting the arrival of guests at one of these functions," says Dr Graham Little, who was the Organizing Secretary, "I was standing with Sir Bryan Donkin at the head of the stairs leading to the reception room. We saw a tall and agile figure bounding up from the foot of the long ascent, taking three steps at a time. 'That is certainly Smith', said Donkin; 'no one else is as young as that', and he was right."

If Heckford originated the East London Hospital for Children, Eustace Smith made and established its great reputation. He loved it like a father. Joining the staff only two years after its foundation, for forty-three years he gave unstintingly of his time and thought and care. He managed committees with consummate skill, was an admirable colleague, ever ready to promote the interests of his juniors or to help them in their work by placing his vast experience at their disposal. His spirit permeated the entire institution.

Apropos of his experience with King Leopold, and to illustrate his gift of happy repartee, this story is told:
"During one of his visits to England His Majesty complained of insomnia, which Eustace Smith treated perfectly successfully with a nightly dose of 15 grains of bicarbonate of soda. 'Do you know, Dr Eustace Smith,' said the King some time afterwards, 'that I showed the prescription you gave me for sleeplessness to my Court Physician, and he tells me that you ordered me common bicarbonate of soda? 'But, if I remember right, Your Majesty benefited by my treatment.' 'Oh, yes, it cured my insomnia, but bicarbonate of soda is such a very commonplace drug. My physician was quite surprised at your ordering it for me.' 'Ah, Your Majesty, you will forgive me for reminding you that Naaman the Syrian also objected to the Jordan as too commonplace a stream for his use - until immer-sion in it cured his leprosy.' "

At the Seventeenth International Congress of Medicine in 1913 he presided over the Children's Section. The presidency disturbed his very regular habits, entailing as it did much hospitality, and doubtless fatigued him considering his great age; otherwise he was active in his consulting practice to the age of 79.

In addition to being Physician to the East London Hospital for Children, he was, at the time of his death, Consulting Physician to the City of London Hospital for Diseases of the Chest. He was a Member of Council of the Royal College of Physicians (1896-1898).

Writing of his alertness, youthfulness, and importance to the East London Hospital, his colleague, Dr Alfred M. Gossage, adds:-

"He showed the keenest appreciation of all recent medical advance, and readily availed himself of the assistance afforded to diagnosis by laboratory research, though he deplored the tendency displayed by the younger generation to rely too much on the laboratory to the detriment of the training of their eyes, ears, and hands. It was in physical examination that he excelled, and it was remarkable how his senses never failed him, for during all the time I have known him his hearing remained as acute and his fingers as deft as they can ever have been. He was always ready to discuss diagnosis and treatment, and most of his younger colleagues can recall many a pleasant dispute over cases in the wards, or fertile hints on treatment, illustrated by apposite tales from consultant practice, with which the journey back from the hospital was wont to be beguiled."

In private life he was much of an artist, spending his annual holidays in water-colour sketching of a high order. In literature, French and English, especially in the Elizabethan dramatists, he was conspicuously well read. His own literary style was at once easy and lucid.

He died after a short illness on Saturday, Nov 14th, 1914, and was cremated. He had practised at 19 Queen Anne Street, W. He married in 1875 Katharine Isabella Peace, by whom he had a son and a daughter.

Publications:-

The Wasting Diseases of Infants and Children, 8vo, London, 1868; 6th ed, 1899.
Clinical Studies of Disease in Children. Diseases of the Lungs: Acute Tuberculosis, 8vo, London, 1876 ; 2nd ed., 1887.
A Practical Treatise on Disease in Children, 8vo, London, 1884 ; 3rd ed, 1909. (Many editions of these standard works appeared in America.)
Some Common Remedies and their Use in Practice, 1910.
"Diseases of Children" in Quain's Dictionary of Medicine.
"Diet and Therapeutics of Children", "Mumps", "Whooping-cough", "Diarrhoeas of Children", in Allbutt's System of Medicine.
"Colic", "Constipation in Children", "Infantile Diarrhoea", "Infant Feeding", "Vomiting in Childhood", in Index of Treatment, 1907.
"General Hygiene and Care of Infants and Young Children" in Latham and English's System of Treatment.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet, 1914, ii, 1271. Brit Med Jour, 1914, ii, 904].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England