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Biographical entry Middlemass, Sir John Howard (1917 - 1983)

Kt 1981; CMG 1968; MRCS and FRCS 1976; MB BS Durham 1940; DMRD 1946; MD 1947; FFR 1949; Hon FFRRCSI 1969; Hon FACR 1972; Hon FRACR 1972; MRCP 1964; FRCP 1972.

27 April 1983


Howard Middlemiss was at school at Repton and received his medical training at Durham University where he qualified in 1940. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in India and Normandy as a Lieutenant-Colonel and during this time he developed his interest and concern for countries overseas. At the end of the war years he returned to Newcastle for his specialist training before his appointment as director of radiology in the Bristol United Hospitals. In 1965 he was given a personal chair in radiology and from 1977 to 1980 he proved an energetic and farsighted Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

It was soon evident that apart from his expert knowledge and ability he had a flair for teaching and running a large department. He attracted young doctors from many countries and the radiology department flourished in Bristol. In 1953 he made his first visit to Africa - a visit that committed his heart and mind to the developing world. He travelled widely in the 1950's and mainly in the underdeveloped countries where he not only helped to develop centres but schools of radiology; one of these was in Burma. On his return after these visits he would bring interesting, rare and sometimes quite bizarre radiographic examples of diseases never seen before in England. His experience was gained by hard work which he enjoyed and fortunately he was able to impart this knowledge with enthusiasm to his colleagues at home. He continued to strive to improve the standard of training in radiology and it was due to his strength that the Royal College of Radiology was founded, and he was rewarded by being elected the first President in 1975. The College bestowed on him the gold medal in 1982. Howard Middlemiss was a radiologist in general but he developed a special interest in bone tumours and was the leading light in the now famous Bristol Bone Tumour Panel, where his conduct of meetings punctuated by his ready wit was a stimulus for the young trainees. He published many papers and latterly undertook the post of editor of the Textbook of radiology by British authors.

In 1942 he married Mary Pirrie who was his constant companion and support. They had a son and two daughters. He was survived by his wife and family when he died suddenly at his home on 27 April 1983 aged 66 years.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1983, 286, 1586 with portrait; Lancet 1983, 1, 1115-6 with portrait; The Times 4 May 1983].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England