CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3620/1/18
TitleInterview with Professor Robert Douglas Lockhart (1894 - 1987), (MB ChB 1918, ChM 1924, LLD 1965), Regius Professor of Anatomy
Date11 March 1985
Extent1 audio cassette tape and 1 folder
Administrative HistoryRobert Douglas Lockhart graduated from the University of Aberdeen. He held the office of Regius Professor of Anatomy, 1938-1965.

An outstanding teacher of Anatomy, Lockhart was first author of the standard and much reprinted teaching texts, Anatomy of the Human Body (London: Faber, 1959) and Living Anatomy: a photographic atlas of muscles in action and surface contours (London: Faber, 1948). An entertaining orator, he was also much sought after as an after-dinner speaker, and in his talks cleverly combined his passion for horticulture and literature with contemporary anatomical themes.
DescriptionInterview with Professor R D Lockhart on Monday 11 March 1985 by Mrs Elizabeth Olson.

Transcript of Interview :

O Professor Lockhart, why did you choose to go to Medical School?
L There was an advertisement appeared in the papers that if you were through your second professional in the medical curriculum you would be eligible for an appointment to the Navy as a so-called surgeon probationer and your duties were to teach the men first aid. I thought that I was already qualified to do this and I had actually seen some war service so I wasn't a stranger to boys that were coming home who had also been in war service. At that time the most testing front of all was the so-called Passchendaele Salient in the First War.
O So you had been at University for two years and then you went on to be surgeon probationer, is that right?
L No, I was already through my second professional and I saw this advertisement that I could at least go into the Navy straight away.
O You didn't feel you'd like to wait until you'd finished your medical studies?
L Well I felt I was doing something for the war and I felt I was qualified to do this and I had every confidence in myself as a teacher to boys.
O I saw you were at Scapa Flow at first?
L Yes.
O Is that were you did the first aid teaching?
L I did the teaching wherever I was sent to. I enjoyed teaching and I had every confidence in teaching boys that had already been at the war service because I had seen it myself. Besides I was interested as a teacher to teach boys. I never had any difficulty in controlling a class, no matter how old they were. I could beat them to it in a great many ways.
O Then you went back to Aberdeen to do your clinical years?
L Yes.
O Had you decided to be an anatomist by that time?
L It was the only thing I was qualified to do.
O First of all you did your second professional, then you went away as a surgeon probationer, then you came back and did your …
L I studied while I was away. I took with me the books that were required for the third professional, and I got leave to sit the examination, just a few days to sit the exam, and I got through. I came back then and could wear two gold rings and a red one between them and I had a curl on my gold ring as well. I was one up on even my own class fellows because they had still to get through, but I'd managed to do enough study in the Navy to sit the exam along with them. But it was a bit of a test too because they'd had classes, I'd had no classes, I just had to do it on my own.
O The third professional would have been Forensic Medicine, Materia Medica and that sort of thing?
L I wasn't concerned about that side of it at that time.
O Then did you go back to the hospital and do your Midwifery and Surgery and Medicine classes, did you have to do that?
L Yes, but that was after I left the Navy. The war was over, and as the war finished a lot of people were left stranded. For example one of my own cousins. I get a bit mixed up with my cousins, I had no less than … there were three boys and we were just about ages, three boys, but one of them had been operated upon in Germany and we were always scrapping with one another, as boys would be boys, and naturally with a war on I was concerned, I had better to something about the war. Every boy that was any good was doing his best and that was up to everybody and I was very much in love with my own home and my own mother particularly. I always got excellent advice from my mother.
O She'd had a sore heart when you went to the war I should think, or did she feel you should go?
L I think I just had impressed her that I would have to do something as a man sort of thing. Everybody was doing their bit and I thought this was a thing that I could do and it was in my own line and I never had the least hesitation in my own ability to teach my subject. That maybe sounds a bit conceited but it's true.
O When you went up to University before the war what kind of doctor did you think you would be? When you were a young lad and looking at your life, did you think you would be a general practitioner?
L One's main anxiety at that stage in one's life was to take a part in the war. Everybody was concerned about the war.
O I was really thinking more in 1913 when you were a wee bit younger than that?
L I don't think I had any thoughts about anything.
O There was something about you maybe wanting to be a vet in the notes that you had earlier.
L Well, I had a friend and he stayed with one of the headmasters, I forget his name, he was an old gentleman, but this friend of mine became a vet, and I couldn't stand the idea of a vet seeing the young animals growing up and then being slaughtered. I thought once you'd seen all these beautiful little lambs all that were born in one day came together and were put into a group and it went circling round a great big hall and when had been once round they were out into a field and by that time they knew their own mothers very well and they would scamper about in the field. Even if other lots came in they all knew their own mothers very accurately by that time and there was never any trouble in letting them loose in a field.
O So you thought that being a vet was not a nice thing?
L No, in fact I disliked the idea of animals that could come to you, and you knew them by name, and they knew their names that they'd been given and I thought it was terrible even to see the little lambs all being herded together the product of one day and by the time they had circled round us, sometimes and especially when they were put in vans. Things that you wouldn't think about. These vans were often followed by our own Prevention of Cruelty to Animals because they knew the authorities in the continent were anxious to avoid any enquiries as to their treatment of the animals. Well we knew that the treatment was very bad, that some of these poor little animals would be dead when they got to the end of their course, and there was a kind of war on between our own Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the people who were subjecting them. They took them by all devious routes and unfortunate roads in order to escape the people that were following them in order to prosecute them for cruelty to animals.
O So you thought you'd prefer to study medicine and work with people?
L It never entered my head because when I came out of the Navy it so happened that I had been requested by Professor Reid of the Anatomy department.
O He put his finger on you at the beginning that you would be a good person to have?
L Yes. He'd been anxious to get somebody who he had had a little experience of in any way.
O Were you a demonstrator in the beginning or a lecturer? What did they call your job, do you remember?
L I was just a so-called lecturer in anatomy but I was a senior lecturer, that was the only difference. They were having great difficulty because the normal way of entering the University had been all upset with war.
O In what way?
L Everybody was thinking what they could do in war service.
O So they would have been short for staff.
L They were very short of staff.
O Was it hard for you family to pay for you to come through University? Was it expensive to have a medical student in the family in those days?
L I couldn't answer that because I was aware that my father had a good position so I was lucky in that respect. I was also very fortunate and had an excellent mother who never made mistakes. I could take you to a tree in Hazlehead and we sat at the foot of that tree and discussed things, and she agreed that I would go in for medicine and that was why I went into the Navy straight away.
O Because you'd done the training, yes. Did you have any choice in what you studied when you were at Medical School or was the course fixed?
L You just took whatever was the recognised course.
O Do you remember any of your teachers? You took Botany and Zoology didn't you?
L Reid from London and he was the first of the full-time teachers of Anatomy.
O Professor Reid?
L Professor Reid was, he was the very first one that was devoted entirely to Anatomy and did nothing else but Anatomy, he was the first.
O Was he a good teacher himself?
L Well, the amusing thing to me was, that when I myself was a teacher I could appreciate how good he himself had been as a teacher but when I was a student I would agree with all the other students that they got a bit irritable because they thought he was past it.
O Why? Was he slow?
L It wasn't so much that he was slow but this is a very difficult point.
O Just perhaps very careful in what he'd tell you so that it wasn't interesting to listen to at the time?
L When I was already a teacher myself I could appreciate how good a teacher he was, whereas when I was a student I would have been irritable with him just the same as the other students were.
O But nobody was in any doubt that you were a good teacher and wouldn't have been irritable with you. So you didn't learn your trade from Professor Reid. Did you learn it maybe from your Zoology teacher in your first year?
L I think that I really had enough myself. You see Arthur Thomson, Sir John Arthur, well he wasn't knighted at that time, but Arthur Thomson was an excellent teacher and his department ran like clockwork. I'll give him full marks. If you had an examination even you'd get back your papers in a few days, now that was electrical, there was no other department in the University could do that, not one. He was a famous teacher. Absolutely as I said his department ran like clockwork.
O And that was unusual at that time was it?
L He was the only man that could do that. You would have a man like Sir Ashley MacIntosh who was famous because he was a recognised physician. He could go to London and hold his own with anybody in London and he was a very favourite practitioner and made a great success of his abilities as a doctor.
O Was he a good teacher?
L Oh yes, he was first class. He was arresting and of course he had the added virtue, he'd been in the war.
O Had your students been at the war and come back?
L Some of them had.
O Or were they all youngsters like I was when I came up to University?
L No, you see they had experience of the war, they'd been in what was recognised to be the worst salient in the First War. It was called the Passchendaele Salient, and was recognised in all the wars as being the worst one. One of the things that really struck home, people that were buried with military honours today, there was such an excessive bombardment by the Germans that next morning their bodies were hanging from trees. They'd been buried with full military honours the day before and then they'd got to be taken down and buried again. That was very sad work. I always call him Sir John, he hadn't been knighted at this time, but as a matter of fact I happened to be in the University as quite a junior person, but the Professor himself had requested me to be released because they had no teachers and I got relief from the Navy to come back and go on with my teaching in the University and that was how I was put into Anatomy under Professor Reid in the first place. At this time I always refer to him as Sir John Arthur Thomson but he hadn't been knighted at this time but he was very well known, his department ran like clockwork.
O Had he a lot of students in his class?
L Yes it was a big class.
O Maybe 100 or more than that?
L You got people coming from all over the University to attend Arthur Thomson's classes and that was one of the things. As you entered his room he had a long narrow case about that height, and after every lecture his summary of his own lecture was posted so you could go up to that and see how accurate had been your own description of each lecture. You could check it with his own notes of his own lecture. No other teacher did anything so good as that. He was a brilliant teacher and I always referred to him as the prince of all lecturers without a shadow of doubt. His department as I said ran like clockwork, even examination papers you got back within a few days. That had to be very quick work.
O You had to give the vote of thanks?
L Yes. I was very interested at this time. I had become the president of the Aberdeen University Anatomical and Anthropological Society.
O I thought you founded that?
L No, that was founded long before my time. It was really a brother of Sir Arthur Keith that founded it in the beginning.
O And you were at one of Professor Thomson's lectures were you in your capacity as Chairman of the Anatomical?
L Yes. They'd asked Professor Thomson to give a lecture. In fact they'd asked Professor Low to do it. Now Professor Low had just been appointed to succeed me as the Professor of Anatomy. I was sitting in the class and there was a man behind me who was quite a senior type of man but I turned to him and I said 'there's a good crowd here today'. 'Oh' he said 'the lad's no the guy that delivers the goods'. So when I started to introduce Sir Arthur Thomson to the meeting I was the head of the so-called society and I referred to this man's remark 'that the lad's no the guy that delivers the goods' and I could assure him that I was speaking not only for the lads but also for the lassies that also knew the guy that delivered the goods, and that he would excuse me on this instance for using the American vernacular that I could assure him that it came very close to the hearts of all the students present at this meeting. So it went off quite well. This time the way our Professor ran his department was very exceptional. You got back your papers very quickly, even your examination papers came back quickly, and I've often seen this commented upon by senior students that were senior to me that Arthur Thomson was unique in this respect. He would put out all your examination papers would be returned and scattered about the museum and this is why I wrote 'a wee girlie I ran around to find whether my marks were poised aloft upon the pretty pinions of the butterflies or greedily toyed on the tentacles of the starfish'. This I think had appealed to Sir Arthur Thomson, it was more or less his kind of style. That was how I did it. Once I was attending a meeting in London and I just happened to talk about Sir Arthur Thomson and I quoted 'he would talk about the dorsal brain and a ventral chain and a ring round the gullet uniting the twain' and it astonished me here was I, quite a junior and quite foreign to all the people present, although I was sitting next to one of Sir Arthur Keith's own brothers who could appreciate what I was driving at. But it was dorsal brain in the animals it's a dorsal brain and a ventral chain and a ring round the gullet uniting the twain, and dammit the people in the audience repeated it in unison with me 'dorsal brain, ventral chain and a ring round the gullet uniting the twain'. It just went like clockwork, as I said his classes went like clockwork, he was a great teacher. I said the worm was a nocturnal animal and those which you see in the daytime are diseased, indeed it is not the early bird which catches the early worm but the worm that wouldn't go home till morning.
O I like that story.
[Tape stops. Professor Lockhart then reads…]
L Among the fisherfolk of the north the men spoke as the spirit moved them. It moved one man and he up and said 'Oh God if you tell me what to say I'll say it'. These are my sentiments at the moment. On behalf of your guests I thank you deeply and sincerely for the honour conferred in gathering us among you on the occasion of this final festival but the moment is most of all opportune to express our gratitude for the great encouragement and stimulation we have derived from you in the various stages of the medical curriculum. There is magnetism in a class that draws a teacher's best and he is a dull soul who never feels a pang of regret when he meets his class for the last time. When the students filed from the room and he looks upon the lifeless benches with their grim decision that another chapter is closed. Recently I've heard the criticism that students use their lectures in the way a tipsy man uses a lamp-post, not so much to light them on their way as to dissimulate their instability. I cannot honestly agree with this criticism because I have learned a great deal from my students. You remember it was Mr Davidson who discovered that Gray's anatomy is written in blank verse. Listen origin of seratus magnus muscle by fleshy digitations from the first eight ribs and the radiographic eye of Mr Harkins was disconcerted to realise that when he clasped the rosebud fingertips of his sweet amaryllis to his fervent lips he merely held a potential climbing cluster of bones, tendons, nerves and arteries. Then again many of you are capable of expressing simple truths in startling fashion as was evidenced by the gentleman describing the umbilicus. He wrote, the umbilicus is situated on the anterior abdominal wall, it can be seen with the naked eye. Hernia may occur in this region. These may be of greater or lesser degree, that is to say where care is exercised the degree will be lesser. And one of your own number stumped upon the mamma was forced to the conclusion the secretion of the mammary gland is used for feeding babies. I admit that I have also learned many things from your guests but they do not impart their information with the courtesy and tact received from the students. Several years ago I was rash enough to write an essay in the Lancet on the art of learning anatomy and I broadcasted reprints among all my friends. They were also good about it that I became more conceited than ever. That was before I got Mr Colt's reply. It ran, I have read your paper. I hope it will do good. When I was at Barts yours was the system involved and it blighted my existence. For the most part your teachers have been my teachers and soon both they and the quadrangle will become for you a source of memories grave and gay. I wonder if your memories will be like mine. In the stillness of the night let us look upon the grey walls of the quadrangle where flutter the shadows and memories of many years. Do not breath freely until you have passed the olfactory range of the Chemistry Department. The squeak of mice from Bacteriology and all is well but look in the medicine corner there's a neatly knit figure of dominant energy insisting upon gentlemen taking away a single point from today's lecture, that the treatment is rest, rest, rest. But already the bird of time is on the wing. The figure passes, a new long, lean huntsman appears in his role to rule the pack in his stead and he will cry tallyho and hullo for the vital staining of the reticular site. There's a dreary drone of dozes from Materia but the chorus is of no therapeutic value. Above from the casements of Public Health there leans a tall giant with arms outstretched declaiming it's all tosh. In the Midwifery corner there's a dogmatic voice that's absolutely no doubt, leave it to nature. And above there is the Natural History Museum. I well remember how our corrected examination papers were returned arranged upon its showcases and how eagerly I ran round to find whether my marks were poised aloft upon the pretty pinions of the butterflies or greedily tied upon the tentacles of the starfish. But we interrupt a gentleman of charming eccentricity, dorsal brain ventral chain and a ring round the gullet uniting the twain. The worm is a nocturnal animal and those which you see in the daytime as diseased, therefore it is not the early bird which catches the early worm but the worm which would not go home till morning. And all the chimpanzees were kept together for a chimpanzee by itself is no longer a chimpanzee. And bananas were hung up out of reach of the animals but one of them piled boxes one on top of the other and so gained the fruit, a great advance, it has learned to put two and two together. And away down the Anatomy steps you'll see that ancient mariner of a whale upon it's non-stop flight and a quiet man with a shrewd eye and a pleasant twinkle. Maybe perhaps and of a certainty it has been well said 'he will give the devil his due'. Now the theme changes and we are within the walls of a hospital and the professor of surgery looks down upon a ploughman, hectic, emaciated, a sinister ladder pattern upon his abdominal wall. Sir John elicit in the classical symptom that rejoices in the name of Borborygm asks 'Are you ever troubled with rumbling noises in your belly?' 'Och aye, it rummles and rousles like water in a burn'. Then an old lady complements him with sincerity if dubiety, 'eh man, but you're a terribly skilful doctor, my mother died in you hands, ye ken'. Across in the medical side there's a capacious consultants' attaché case that rivals the silk hat of the conjurer and a massive head that easily juggled with the jig-saw of neurology and we may be pardoned if we ponder. Could this fascinating figure, this is Sir Alexander Anderson, if this fascinating figure had every been a baby playing with a box of bricks? But he'll tell a good story of inveigling Dr Ursher, the Ophthalmologist, into a café in Salonica where a damsel performed the danse du vent. At the end of the performance A.G. asked the oculist what he thought of the exhibition and he replied 'If I were asked for a diagnosis of the lady's condition I would suggest that she is suffering from rotary nystagnus of the umbilicus'. Five years ago we met at Dead Man's Locker and after many a reef and tack through the port of Winslow, weathering the anterior horn beating up the rubra spinal tract, standing by hyliards in an aqueduct of Sylvia's careening upon the golden strand of Victor's ear, and dull days upon the doldrums of the cortex. Lying hove to upon the Isle of Ryle you passed at length from quarantine. New pilots came aboard, your cutlasses were changed to a stethoscope and you sailed away across the seas of Wonderland in the rainbowed interest of the living. And now you perform the last great courtesy of bringing up your piolets together again even as you are about to drop them for the great adventure. You will remember that a question mark flies as pennant of your craft, riding out the stress of storm till becalmed in the port of retrospect refitting may be planned, but always the Blue Peter flutters to the fore, the big screws are turning, the fenders come aboard, the siren hoots, the gong goes and you'll be gone with your guests' good wishes on the times and tides of life.
O Professor Lockhart, did you enjoy being asked to go to class reunions and speak?
L I always felt highly honoured to receive invitations to attend class reunions and I was concerned always to do my very best because I'd be judged in comparison with the best speakers in the class, both boys and girls. I had rules of my own, to be original, arresting, interesting and amusing, and phrased in the finest language at my command to grace the occasion.
O Yes, and anyone who listened to you would have agreed that how often you succeeded in your aims. Did you take a long time to prepare such lectures?
L Yes. I knew that I was up against the best speakers in the class and that would embrace girls as well as boys and I knew that I would have to do my level best and I was highly honoured to receive the invitation.
O Do you remember you used to give a lecture, I think to the Anatomical Society, in praise of your predecessors in the chair of Anatomy? You used to speak about, I think, was it Struthers then Reid and then Low and talk to the students about that? I've got it here in my head somewhere, but do you remember any of the things you used to say? What should we thank Professor Struthers for? What did he give to the Medical School? Did he make something of the buildings, or museums? What was his contribution?
L The Anatomy Museum was really founded by Professor Reid. It gets a bit complicated some of it. Professor Reid had a brother in the army and he became a very important man in the army and at one time he was away in the Kyber Pass area and they'd been digging to have protection from snipers. In the course of the digging they'd unearthed some very important things that he presented to the museum and are down as presented by Professor R W Reid's brother. So it gives you that Reid himself and his own brother presenting things to the museum.
O This is the Anatomical Museum?
L This is the Anatomy Department Museum. Things were being doubly donated first of all by Reid's own brother and secondly by Reid himself.
O Who started the Anthropological Museum?
L It must have been Professor Reid when he came back from London. He realised that we already had in our possession good things and he thought it was time that they were adequately housed and that's how we happened to get what had been an old library. That was the origin of the museum in the first place.
O Underneath the Mitchell Tower?
L Yes. You went upstairs and on the left hand side you had this old part of the museum that really was a monument to Reid's industry.
O Would he have done that in his spare time?
L Yes.
O Like you, it would have been on top of all the work that was expected of a teacher.
L On top of all the work yes. But you see not only Reid but his brother. There was a whole family of the Reids and one of the interesting things to me, when Sir William Hamilton Fyfe was the Principal at this particular time I'm now speaking about … need to make any difference in the size of the uniforms and Professor Low was able to assure them that although we had a man come up from London specially to look into this matter. But I knew this man very well and I let the whole department at his disposal and we appointed men to go out. The places where these people had been originally measured no longer existed in the town. Their homes had been dismantled and didn't any longer exist. Just to let you see the difficulties that can arise even with regard to places that didn't any longer exist, but our men knew where many of them went to live and that was how we managed to get a great many of the original measurements could be checked as to what they were when they were now grown up. It was a very important point.
O You used to measure children as well as students at that time did you?
L Yes. Professor Low used to be rather criticised. He and Miss Clark used to go out every Wednesday together and they went and they measured children that had been born within a few days, in Aberdeen.
O Did they measure them over a few years time to watch their growth?
L Yes. That was the great virtue we actually, when the man came up from London, we put everything at his disposal and the Anatomy department including the staff, and they went out to where they knew most probably these people with their old addresses they could nevertheless find out where they had gone. So we were able to check up the people what their measurements were as adults as compared with what they'd been as children.
O Who started the measurements of medical students? I remember you had us measured around the head and across the pelvis and so on, was that your idea or had it been Professor Low perhaps that started that?
L That was done by Professor Reid long, long ago.
O I know my father was measured, and he was interested that I was measured, and of course my husband, and now our son has also joined the collection. It would be very interesting to look at that I should think. You were interested in the Beaker people and the burials that you had, the cists that you had in the museum. Can you tell us how the first of these were found? What brought that to your attention?
L In the days when the people had these burials, these primitive burials, they dug down and in so doing they displaced a whole lot of earth round about them. You can always tell when you've come upon a pit. The pit was a much wider area than the eventual grave. They planted big stones round about the essential grave itself but there's a big area all round about it where the earth had been disturbed which they called the pit.
O Did the farmers plough these up? How did they come to know that they were …?
L Sometimes things getting dislodged, a plough would unearth a stone, and if you weren't away at once, and that was always the point made by Professor Low, you must go at once, and I always did whatever Low was a good practice and I went at once, and damn it by the time you'd got there the mother of the man that dislodged the stone with his plough had got it planted in the kitchen window and it was in full bloom in the kitchen as if it had been there for a year or two, so you had got to be quick. I was very amused that one of these new men that was appointed specially to go into all this question of measurements, and he came up from London. Well we took him in hand and gave him every assistance but the essential point was that we were always there first, and he would have come up after me on possibly a Saturday or Sunday, but I would have gone up at once no matter what day it was. And when he came along he accused me of being away with the goodies and I said, 'not at all, you're very welcome to see everything and anything that I've got,' and invited him to come to the place and see them. But he was one of these superior people that of course couldn't work on a Saturday or a Sunday, he needed some time to himself.
L That was his idea, but I said that was quite foreign to the principles that we'd found necessary, that if he didn't get there in good time he would miss the beginning.
O It would all be part of the souvenir hunters would it?
L Exactly.
O What did souvenir hunters particularly like? Was it teeth maybe?
L Subsequently in the museum itself I had an independent secretary.
O And that was Miss Phillip?
[Gap in recording]
L … woman in London and she was the secretary that informed me. It all happened because of this picture which was an excellent picture. It's a small picture, and that's it's only fault, it should have had a whole page to itself had any amount of pages galore, there's no less than one, two, three, four in a man who was a catcher in a circus trapeze act.
O That's why his muscles were so well developed?
L Yes. The great difficulty is there's at least one, two, three, four pictures all of the one person and there happened to be myself there and most unfortunate to see just what you've got to contend with. We had a man in Cambridge that was just a damned nuisance to me at the time and he criticised this book of mine, this new book, Living Anatomy.
O Why did you feel it was necessary to do Living Anatomy, Professor Lockhart? I know but tell the future, what was new about doing that as an anatomy text book? Was that the first time somebody had taken real photographs and used them, would you say?
L Well for instance, this will explain some of the difficulties. When you raise your arms up there are two ways to do it. You can do what we call a free movement where you stretch your best. Now you can do it with what we call a controlled movement, it doesn't go so high. So I have both the controlled movement and the free movement shown both front and back. And you can get it lopsided, if you do the controlled movement on one side and the free movement on the other, you can get a twist.
O So you were trying to show what a human body was really like in action at the time?
L It's all very well when you're trying to interest people in how muscles work. It's very interesting to show them that there's two different movements possible. You can have a controlled movement or you can have a free movement. You can twist the body above so that it's controlled on one side and free on the other and you can get that twist.
O And you can show it in the photographs. When you were an anatomy student were the anatomy textbooks any good? Did you like them or did you think they were boring?
L I think in particular, I'll just give you one little quotation to show you how ridiculous they could be. It said there is no magician's manikin in its diverse role.
O Did she not like that book?
L There was a woman in London and I rang up one day and I'd always been in the habit of speaking to a young girl.
O There was a Miss Pinder?
L Miss Pinder? Well, but anyhow when I rang up on this occasion this little girl that had always had very pleasant company, she seemed in a very excited state, they'd to get rid of me in case this other lady that now informed me that she was now responsible for the anatomy book, Anatomy of the Human Body, which was the title of the book and when I got hold of this woman she told me that she was entirely responsible for Anatomy of the Human Body and I told her, I said 'that your responsibility for Anatomy of the Human Body stops abruptly on the doorstep of number 3 Queen's Square'. That's how I treated her and I didn't forget. She told me there was no such thing as any second or third edition, there had never been more than two editions. Now just to let you see how little attention was paid to her. Here it is now all written out without any reference to her and her ideas. It was first published in 1948 and then the sixth edition in 1963, reprinted 1971, seventh edition 1974, printed in Great Britain by Jarrold & Sons Ltd, Norwich, all rights were theirs paper covered editions etc, hardbound edition, preface to the sixth edition.
O Had you some good stories about your teachers?
L Sir Ashley MacIntosh was a very famous teacher in the first place, he was excellent.
O He was a professor of medicine wasn't he.
L He was a professor of medicine. One of the difficulties was that he had a house in Union Street, Aberdeen and it was directly opposite the last of all the so-called Italian warehouseman. A good grocer in the old days didn't call himself a grocer he called himself an Italian warehouseman.
O Well, I never knew that.
L One of the most annoying papers I ever read in my life appeared in the Sunday Times of all people and it irritated me intensely.
O And Sir Ashley MacIntosh was opposite the grocer was he?
L Sir Ashley MacIntosh lived opposite a firm called … you see the names have all been changed. He lived opposite an Italian warehouseman, a really top grocer. I read an article once in the British Medical Journal that annoyed me intensely and it was written by some damnable fool that quoted 'Mrs Thatcher, who was she anyway? Nothing but a souped-up housewife.' I remember reading that and it annoyed me bitterly because my father was a trained grocer. Now he'd never yet failed to get an appointment when he appeared in person, never. He always was appointed straight away. If he wrote a letter, that didn't count, but he not only had good appearance, he gave the appearance of being taller than he really was, but he carried no excess weight. He would take me and my mother to Hanglers Circus in Glasgow. That was a very famous circus and they did it well and you would have had horses coming flying onto the stage and going down through the ice and all the rest of it. In particular there was a story that interested me about a father who had been waiting up for his son coming home and I remember that I was appointed when I was interviewed for the Chair of Anatomy in Birmingham, I was one of ten people who were interviewed, and the first question I got was from the head of Birmingham University, I'm sorry I've forgotten his name. Anyhow his son had come home and he was very fond of his son and he said 'Where have you been tonight son?' and he immediately said 'I've been to hell' and his father wanting to mollify him, he very kindly said 'And what did you think of the place, son?' 'Well' he said, 'It was very much like being at home, father, you couldn't get a seat near the fire for ministers'. Well that went down very well. Now I'd been newly appointed and I was telling the audience that it was very difficult for me. I was interviewed by the head of the university. After we had lunch together, all the candidates, ten of us and I was one of the first in and this man said to me 'Tell me Professor Lockhart, what do you think is going to be the position of anatomy relative to the other subjects in the medical curriculum, in the course of say the next ten or twenty years? Of course if you think it's a stupid question do not hesitate to say so'. And I immediately said 'It's not a stupid question sir' and he was pleased about that. And I said 'Indeed if I may be allowed to pass a remark for a moment it's a highly intelligent question', he was still better pleased. And I said 'You never know the moment when a new discovery is going to throw a shaft of light on a problem that's hither too been obscure' and I said 'I can give you an instance in point because I happened to travel to a meeting in Dublin with the professor of anatomy who'd made this new discovery. They'd been working with the drug Interferon, now it wasn't Interferon but a derivative there from. They'd found that it had the ability to cause cells of the body to proliferate, that was to reproduce quickly. They'd discovered a derivative from this already that could cause cells to proliferate as rapidly as cancer cells do'. Now it was obvious to me at once that I had the attention of everybody because you must know that surgeons use anatomy every day of their lives and it has been quite common among them to think is there really any need to have a professor of anatomy at all, because after all we do all the anatomy and that we're always doing anatomy, we do it every day all day long, and there was some excuse for them. But here was an instance where an anatomist happened to produce an article and it was published in a journal of anatomy and I'd just read it and I said 'If I may be allowed to pass the remark this is to show you that you can have a great deal of difficulty in finding not only the people but even the places where they stayed are no longer there'.
O Why did you go to Birmingham? Was there something special about Birmingham or was it just a job that was there at the time?
L They advertised for a professor.
O Any you would have been even better pleased to come back to Aberdeen later on were you as the Regius Professor?
L Yes. I was really appointed on the strength of my … as he said, 'Of course if you think it's a stupid question do not hesitate to say so' and I immediately said 'It's not a stupid question and I said if I may be allowed to pass a remark it's a highly intelligent question,' and this pleased him no end because I knew and he also knew that they looked on him as a great talker. Now he and another man had been two great talkers at the University of Cambridge and when they left it was found that the others had lost the power of speech.
O That's a lovely story. They hadn't got a word in edgeways.
L Sir Ashley MacIntosh had quite a famous story that he always recited at an appropriate stage to his class. He had a house in Union Street, Aberdeen and to gain entry to this house you'd got to go upstairs from the pavement to get into the house, and he drove a gig out to his home in the country and he came back in his gig. On this particular wet stormy night, he admired the celerity, he'd just been about to pass a man when he struck a match on his trousers and he admired the celerity with which the man struck the match and lit his pipe and as he passed him he bent over and said 'To do that on such a wet stormy night as this you're an adept' and he got an immediate reply, 'You're an adept yourself and a B forby' Not an expurgated B but one of full blast. Witticism in a class that draws a teacher's best and surely he is a dull soul who never feels a sense of regret when he meets his class for the last time, when the students file from the room and he looks upon the lifeless benches with their grim decision that another chapter is closed. I wonder if you every pause to ponder on the sadness the departments feel without their good companions. On these occasions as I look along the anatomy corridor why even the elephant looks wistful in his bones, and I'm sure he's far away on the road to Mandalay where the flying fishes play and the dawn comes up like thunder out of China 'cross the bay. The great whale breasts the rollers upon the discal flow and he plays at nights where the Northern Lights in rainbowed streamers flow. Even the gorilla and the chimpanzee peer intently to the horizon for they hear the beating of the surf upon the Gold Coast and the wind in the Cameroons. Only one little organ grinder's monkey remains with me but even he sighs for his little red jacket and the barrel organ carolling across a golden stream in the city as the sun sinks low in the land, where the dead dreams go, but your alma mater would never close upon a note of sadness surely our valedictory salutation to you will be these loveliest lines from a famous American musical, 'younger than Springtime, gayer than laughter, am I with you.'

End of Interview

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