Obituary: Dr Brian Russell
Tuesday 09 August 1994
BRIAN RUSSELL's arrival in 1951 as Physician in Charge of the skin department of the London Hospital, in Whitechapel, at the time the largest teaching hospital in the capital, produced a great change in the department. His style was both scientific and reforming and the standard of care was progressively improved. Chemotherapy had replaced the Finsen Light in the treatment of tuberculosis of the skin and Russell was able to convert the old Finsen Unit into a modern well-planned department. It had a mycology laboratory and a small research laboratory and an operating theatre which was always manned when work was in progress.
Born in Forest Gate, east London, where his father was in general practice, in 1904, Russell went to Merchant Taylors School, then in Charterhouse Square, central London. In 1922 he entered London Hospital Medical College and qualified in 1926. He became First Assistant to Donald Hunter, whose teaching helped him to achieve MD in 1929 and MRCP in 1930. From 1933 to 1945 he was in general practice, first at Buxton, in Derbyshire, and then Waltham Cross, in Hertfordshire. In addition he became Medical Officer of Health at Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire, taking the DPH in 1943. In 1942 he became clinical assistant to the dermatologist Robert Klaber, at the Prince of Wales Hospital, in Tottenham, north London, and this led him into Klaber's field. In 1946 he became Assistant Physician to the skin department at Bart's. In 1947 he joined the staff of St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, in central London, where he later served as Dean.
Russell wrote books on Emotional Factors in Skin Disease (1955) with E. Wittkower and A History of St John's Hospital for Diseases of the Skin (1963) and more than 60 papers. He was specially interested in tuberculosis of the skin, common bacterial infections and reactions to adhesive plaster. He was a pioneer in the use of controlled clinical trials.
Russell became President of the St John's Hospital Dermatological Society and of the Section of Dermatology of the Royal Society of Medicine and Civil Consultant to the Royal Navy.
A modest and friendly man, he was of distinguished appearance, recalling that of his maternal ancestor Admiral Lord Nelson's colleague Lord Collingwood.
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