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
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate Start - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant - Immediate ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders