Obituary: Dr Hugh L'Etang

Because Hugh L'Etang was such a modest, understated individual, it would be easy to underestimate his contribution to medical publishing. He was the editor of the Practitioner from 1973 to 1982, a monthly journal for General Practitioners. The Practitioner was at the height of its success, and for much of the time was the only GP journal doctors would subscribe to. For a further eight years L'Etang was consultant editor of the Physician and from 1986 to this year editor of Travel Medicine International.

L'Etang was encouraged to enter medicine by his father. But he was a doctor who preferred to observe rather than to practise, and he did it with a glint in his eyes. He was the best medical copy editor I have ever encountered - precise and totally accurate. He wrote many acclaimed books. He was interested in the effect illness had on world leaders and this resulted in titles including The Pathology of Leadership (1969), Fit to Lead? (1980) and Ailing Leaders in Power 1914-94 (1995).

Although L'Etang was in many respects the quintessential English gentleman, his roots lay outside Britain. His father, Joseph L'Etang, came from Mauritius in the early 1900s to study medicine and stayed on to become a family doctor in London, where he met Frances Maas, whose family was involved in the tobacco business, and they married in 1915.

L'Etang was educated at Haileybury, and won a scholarship to read Physiology at St John's College, Oxford. He completed his training at St Bartholomew's Hospital, for whom he also played rugby. During the Second World War he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was twice mentioned in dispatches. After joining his father in general practice, he was a medical officer with North Thames Gas Board, and then with British European Airways. He became head of the medical department at the pharmaceutical company John Wyeth and Bros in 1958.

L'Etang was a voracious reader, and might have followed a literary career. One of his responsibilities at Wyeth was the writing of advertising copy. He would visit the company's library to research well-known artists suffering from a condition that one of the company's drugs was attempting to treat. A career in medical publishing seemed attractive and in 1969 L'Etang landed himself a job as assistant editor of the Practitioner, becoming editor four years later.

My own debt to L'Etang is enormous. When nearly 12 years ago I set up my own under-capitalised medical publishing company, Mark Allen Publishing, a management buy-out from International Thomson Publishing, L'Etang, then consultant editor of the Physician, one of the two medical journals I acquired, told me he would work for me for nothing.

Several months later he approached me again: "Travel Medicine International is up for sale," he said, "and urgently needs a buyer. If you agree to buy it I will work for the publication as editor, free."

Hugh L'Etang's much-loved wife, Cecily Tinker, was a respected doctor in her own right. They were inseparable. She would accompany Hugh to meetings and help him report them. She was the cornerstone of his life.

Hugh Joseph Charles James L'Etang, medical practitioner and writer: born 23 November 1917; Medical Adviser, North Thames Gas Board 1948-56, British European Airways 1956-58; Medical Adviser, John Wyeth 1958-69; Assistant and Deputy Editor, the Practitioner 1969-73, Editor 1973-82; Consultant Editor, the Physician 1983-91; married 1951 Cecily Tinker (died 1996; one son, one daughter); died London 25 November 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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 People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower