Sir William Peart (OK 1940) died March 14, 2019
The following obituary appeared in the Ham & High on 25th March 2019.
Sir William Stanley Peart worked in Alexander Fleming’s penicillin ward at St Mary’s Hospital and was one of the youngest professors of medicine of his time.
Known as Stanley, he was an employee of the NHS up to 75 and pointedly refused to take a penny in private fees – only the occasional bottle of wine.
Stanley’s daughter Celia Pett, 65, told the Ham&High: “People will remember my dad for his kindness. He had this amazing combination of being a clinical detective but also an incredibly compassionate man He was absolutely loved by his patients and was able to combine being an academic, researcher and clinician. No one could do that anymore.”
Having grown up in South Shields, Tyneside, Stanley followed his family to south west London where his dad Jack became manager of Fulham Football Club in 1935. He soon dropped his Geordie accent, first studying at King’s College School, Wimbledon, and then earning a rugby scholarship at St Mary’s Medical School, Paddington. Soon after the Second World War, following a short deployment in the Royal Air Force, Stanley secured one of his first jobs in medicine as a junior doctor at St Mary’s. Here he worked in Fleming’s penicillin ward where the groundbreaking drug was used to treat many soldiers and war veterans. It was at St Mary’s he met Peggy, a staff nurse from the same unit, who he first approached by asking to borrow her scissors. They would go on to marry and have two children – Celia and Robert. This was after seven years of waiting – Stanley’s boss Sir George Pickering had urged him to delay starting a family until “making his professional mark”.
Sir William’s four grandchildren would come to cherish, and occasionally dread, his never-ending curiosity. “He always wanted to know how things worked in all sorts of fields,” said Celia. “He’d come over and ask the grandkids: ‘Why do pigeons bob their heads?’ “He always asked questions to make them think.”
After a stint in Edinburgh that sparked his interest in academic research, Stanley returned to St Mary’s as a professor of medicine, of which there were only eight at the time. He would stay there for the rest of his professional career, establishing himself as a leading figure in renal medicine. Stanley worked on kidney transplants and helped pioneer treatment for blood pressure, specifically in the hormone system regulating levels of water and hypertension.
In 1985 he was awarded a knighthood for his outstanding services to medicine and in 2000 was honoured with the Buchanan Medal of the Royal Society. Among many medical positions he occupied throughout his career, Stanley was head of St Mary’s Medical School, chair of the Medical Research Society, research director of The Royal College of Surgeons, a member of the Medical Research Council and a trustee of the Wellcome Trust.
As for Highgate, Stanley was forever in awe of his natural surroundings. “He absolutely loved Hampstead Heath and Waterlow Park,” said Celia. “He loved all the trees and plants, and always observed the passing of the seasons. “He would often thank the statue of Sydney Waterlow for giving the park its public land.” A regular at Highgate Tennis Club, physical activity came naturally to Stanley, even in his later years. “He took up rollerblading when he was 70 down at Waterlow Park to keep up with the grandkids and he skied until he was 88,” said Celia. “He always wished he could ski off the park’s precipice.”
After a brave battle with illness, Stanley died on March 14.