John Alfred Lee 1906- 1987

Having worked at the hospital in Southend during my agency years I find it impossible to resist the inclusion of the great Anaesthetist Alfred Lee. As an ODP I consider him a champion for the group of people known as OTTs / ODAs I omit the ODPs as during his tenure as an anaesthetist they never existed.

This “Liverpudian” Anaesthetist was born in 1906 and trained as a doctor at Newcastle upon Tyne and qualified in 1927. After a spell at the Royal Victoria Hospital he eventually moved on as a general practitioner who gave anaesthetics to Southend General Hospital.

It was at the start of WW” that he became a fully-fledged Anaesthetist and concentrated on that speciality, along with trauma medicine to treat the many victims of the regular bomb raids upon London by the Luftwaffe.

During the latter end of the war he started to write the Synopsis of Anaesthesia, this book was the first anaesthetic book I read that gave me an interest in the History of Anaesthesia. It was first published in 1947. The book is still popular now with Dr. Richard Atkinson who died in 2001 and Rushman updating the later editions.

I worked with Dr Rushman during the 90s and he had a great deal of respect for Alfred Lee. He retired from the NHS in 1971 but still carried on updating the synopsis and was the founder member of the History of Anaesthesia Society.

He was proactive in the early days of the OTT when it struggled to gain recognition as a profession. I have published one of his letters (kind regards from the BMJ) in the piece on ODPs.

Alfred Lee was President (1959) and Hickman Medallist (1976) of the Section of Anaesthetics of the Royal Society of Medicine, President (1972-3) and l a t e r an Honorary Member of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland and he was elected and re-elected to the Board of Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons of England; he was the Faculty Clover Lecturer i n 1960 and was awarded the Faculty Gold Medal i n 1976.

It cannot be said that he found public duties or public speaking entirely enjoyable, but he undertook them willingly, competently and success fully. 315


Lee opened the first British anaesthetic outpatients department in 1948.

He was very interested in regional analgesia and was instrumental in keeping the practice of spinal and extradural analgesia alive. He retired in 1971 but continued working and teaching as a locum in Southend until after his 80th birthday. He was President of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland from 1986-88 and attended meetings of the Section of Anaesthetics of the Royal Society of Medicine until the month of his death, in April 1989.316



A man who was awarded several honours in the field of medicine and in my little world one of the great names in Anaesthesia an deserving in his place in history.


                                                                                                                 BMA Interview


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