Frank Dudley Hart

Leading specialist in the classification and treatment of rheumatic disease

Anyone who has a rheumatic disease has reason to be grateful to Frank Dudley Hart, who classified the diseases (proper diagnosis is a forerunner to proper treatment), introduced most of the modern therapies, and collected the evidence that was needed to discard treatments that did more harm than good.

Francis Dudley Hart, rheumatologist: born Glossop, Derbyshire 4 October 1909; House Physician/House Surgeon, Sick Children's Hospital Edinburgh, Paddington Green Children's Hospital, Royal Northern Hospital and Brompton hospitals 1933-38; Registrar/Senior Registrar, Westminster, Royal Northern and Brompton hospitals 1937-40; Assistant Physician, then Consultant Physician, Westminster Hospital 1946-74; married 1944 Mary Tully (died 2002; one son, two daughters); died London 10 April 2004.

Anyone who has a rheumatic disease has reason to be grateful to Frank Dudley Hart, who classified the diseases (proper diagnosis is a forerunner to proper treatment), introduced most of the modern therapies, and collected the evidence that was needed to discard treatments that did more harm than good.

He founded the first rheumatology clinic in Britain, at the Westminster Hospital in London: before that, the speciality was known as physical medicine, and the change in name represented a sea-change in the way joint diseases were perceived. Later he helped persuade the Royal College of Physicians to recognise that rheumatology was a speciality in its own right.

Until 1951, there was only one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, and that was aspirin; Hart did the clinical trials that introduced many others, including indomethacin and phenylbutazone, and also of new classes of drugs including gold and penicillamine. He was the first to recognise that ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory disease affecting the spine and often other joints, was a different disease from rheumatoid arthritis.

The son and grandson of Anglican clergymen, Hart was educated at Grosvenor School and spent two years studying Divinity before switching to Medicine at Edinburgh University. After a variety of hospital jobs in Edinburgh and London he went, in 1939, to the Westminster Hospital. Apart from his Second World War service he spent the rest of his career there.

In 1939 the patients, students and most of the staff at the Westminster were evacuated and he was left with three surgeons to run the Westminster as a casualty clearing station in preparation for the bombing of London. In 1942 he joined the RAMC, serving in Iraq, Italy and North Africa and was mentioned in dispatches. He soon became interested in the prevalence of ankylosing spondylitis. This affects at least one person in 200, mainly male, and was surprisingly common in young recruits.

In 1946 he was demobbed and went back to the Westminster as a general physician. He stayed there until his retirement in 1974. Hart not only introduced all the modern treatments that work; he was responsible for the abolition of two standard but harmful treatments for ankylosing spondylitis.

First, he liberated patients from the useless plaster casts that they hated, and got them exercising instead. Many of the patients were young men sent over from the army hospital in nearby Millbank. The casts were applied because it was argued that their spine would become rigid anyway, and it was better that it was rigid and straight than rigid and bent. Hart reasoned that with the right exercises, done frequently enough, the rigidity could be reduced or prevented. This was successful and he published a paper on it. Later in his career, he collected the evidence that put paid to another harmful treatment, spinal radiotherapy.

It was at the Westminster Hospital, in 1973, that the genetics of ankylosing spondylitis was discovered: a colleague, Dr Derrick Brewerton, asked Hart if any rheumatic diseases ran in families, and Hart replied that ankylosing spondylitis did. Another colleague, the transplant immunologist David James, did leading work on the leukocyte antigens that form our tissue type, and Brewerton was able to demonstrate that 95 per cent of patients with ankylosing spondylitis had an antigen called B27.

Hart advised the Department of Health on painkilling and anti-inflammatory diseases. He was nice to everyone and was universally popular. He was an outstanding teacher, both in the lecture room and at the bedside, and a high proportion of the current generation of leading rheumatologists trained under him. He backed the idea of a specialist research institute, which was funded by a gift from Mathilde Kennedy (neé Marks, and heir to Sir Simon Marks of Marks and Spencer). Thus in 1965 arose the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, affiliated to Charing Cross Hospital.

He published 200 clinical papers in learned journals, contributed to several textbooks, and in his latter days wrote on the history of rheumatology and other aspects of medical history and biography. Hart wrote and broadcast for a lay audience, was the author of Overcoming Arthritis (1981) and for many years - until 1998, when he was nearly 90 - wrote a regular column in Arthritis Today, the Arthritis Research Campaign's quarterly magazine, answering readers' questions.

Several of the important annual medical lectures in the UK and abroad were delivered by Hart, and he served for many years on the executive committee of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council (later the Arthritis Research Campaign), advising on how best to split the funding of clinical and laboratory research.

Hart was a large, happy, friendly, expansive, sociable man, with a natural and uncontrived charm. He played a dozen musical instruments and loved jazz and swing.

When he developed an intestinal cancer, loyal to the last he went to his old hospital, now the Chelsea and Westminster, for treatment.

Caroline Richmond



Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup