NOTTINGHAM’S EMINENT SURGEONS AND PHYSICIANS


PHILIP BOOBBYER

1857 - 1930


President of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society

1908


Philip Boobbyer:- Uphill House, Park Side, Derby Road, and Guildhall, Nottingham. M.D. Durham 1902; M.B., M.S., 1885; M.R.C.S., England, 1881; L.S.A., 1883 (King’s College & University College of Durham); Association of King’s College, London; Fellow of the Society of the Medical Officers of Health; Fellow and Member of the Council and Examiner of the Royal Sanitary Institute; Medical Officer of Health, Nottingham; Medical Superintendent, City Isolation Hospital.


Late:- Medical Officer of Health, Basford Rural District. Resident Medical Officer for Women and Children, King’s College Hospital & Assistant Demonstrator of Anatomy, University of Durham, College of Medicine.


Author of Official Health Reports, Basford, 1885-89, Nottingham Borough & City 1889-1906; “Compulsory Notification & Hospital Isolation,” 1891; reports on “Conservancy & Water Carriage in Great Towns,” 1894, “Enteric Fever in Houses with Different Types of Closets,” 1895, “Knackery & Abattoir Plant in Germany,” 1897; “Smallpox Attenuated by Vaccination,” 1903; “Special Report to the Home Office on Health of Lace Dressers,” 1907; Contributor to “Smallpox Secondaries,” Quarterly Medical Journal, 1893; “Smallpox Outbreak traced to and by Infected Lace,” Society of Medical Officers of Health, 1894; “Return Cases of Scarlet Fever,” 1895-96; “Ten Years Experience of Enteric Fever,” Transcript, Epidemiological Society 1899; “Open air treatment of Smallpox,” British Medical Journal, 1904; “Tramps and Smallpox,” Lancet, 1904; “Dust Problems,” Congress of the Royal Sanitary Institute. 1906.


Medical Directory 1908

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Philip Boobbyer was the son of Mr. Joseph Hurst Boobbyer, an acclaimed descendent from an old Hugenot family which came to England from France several centuries ago. He was a native of Brighton and was educated at Brighton College. In 1876 before commencing his medical studies at King's College and later King's College Hospital, London, he spent two years in an engineer's office - an experience which could not have failed to have proved exceedingly valuable to him in his subsequent activities. After qualifying as Member of the Royal College of Surgeons he became resident medical officer at King's College Hospital. It was also during this period he was to serve for twelve months as demonstrator of anatomy at Durham University, eventually obtaining his University degrees in both medicine and surgery, and the Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in London.


It was whilst still studying for his degrees in 1884 that the position of assistant medical officer of health to the Basford Rural Sanitary Authority became vacant. At that time Basford District comprised of many large places which have since become independent. Dr. Boobbyer was appointed and within five years succeeded to the post of medical officer. At that time of his appointment he was only aged 31 years, however he went on to hold the post, serving with distinction, for a period of 40 years, retiring on the 9th of January 1929.


During those 40 years the health services in Nottingham expanded out of all recognition. When Dr. Boobbyer took over the reins there were only 30 or 40 employees under the direct control of the medical officer. By the time of his retirement in 1929 the staff numbers had risen to 220. In the early days of his tenure there was no pathological laboratory, no maternity and child welfare department, no tuberculosis or venereal disease department, no sanatorium for adults or children, no hostels for mothers, sun-ray clinic, medical service or other departments which were developed during his time.


In many ways Dr. Boobbyer was a pioneer. He fought for many years to induce what appeared to be a lethargic health authority to abolish the 'pail closet' system, and had his advice been adopted at that time it would have saved the ratepayers over £100,000 in conversion costs. Dr. Boobbyer was able to demonstrate by incontrovertible figures that enteric fever, infantile diarrhoea, and other epidemic diseases were largely due to this unsanitary system, and that hundreds of lives were being lost annually as a consequence of his actions. For example in 1899 there were 613 cases of enteric fever in the city. As a consequence, by the time of his retirement in 1929 Nottingham was practically free from the disease. Also, in the last five years of the 19th century the death rate from enteric fever stood at 18.9 per 1,000. However, by 1928 that figure was to stand at 12 per 1,000. So with the abolition of the pail closet system and a much improved public sanitary system cases of enteric fever began to show quite a dramatic decline.


Dr Boobbyer lived to see many of his advocated health reforms receive general recognition. In some places they were adopted before they were officially recognised in Nottingham. He was once criticised as being an "open-air-crank" because of his belief in pure air as a healing agent. Even by the time the Health Committee's institutions like Bagthorpe Isolation Hospital (Heathfield Hospital, now part of the Nottingham City Hospital) had adopted the open-air treatment, it was still looked on with a great deal of suspicion by certain members of the committee.


However, his belief in pure air as a treatment for enteric fever received international acclaim. At the Dresden Exhibition in 1911 he was awarded a diploma of honour and a medal for his achievements.


For his campaign for the health of children in Nottingham, at the time of his retirement the number and variety of tributes paid to him afforded eloquent testimony to the value of his life's work. Originality, freshness of outlook and freedom from convention were to be many of his outstanding features.


To give some idea of the growth of the health services in Nottingham - At the time of Dr. Boobbyer's appointment to the post of medical officer the annual expenditure was £8,000. By the time of his retirement the annual expenditure had risen to £121,000. Also, at the time of his appointment infant mortality stood at a rate of 84 per 1,000. However, by the time of his retirement this figure had dropped to 18.2.


Dr. Philip Boobbyer lived one year into retirement. At the age of 72 and as a consequence of a coronary he died on the 21st January 1930, after of all things, his daily "cold bath," before breakfast.


Dr. Boobbyer was married to the sister of the Architect Watson Fothergill, who survived him with two sons and two daughters. One of his daughters married the son of Sir Arthur Blake, who was killed in a flying accident at Hucknall Airdrome in 1929. Dr. Boobyer's body was laid to rest after the funeral service at St. Andrews Church in the adjacent Nottingham Cemetery on the 24th January 1930. The funeral  was attended by many of Nottingham's Civic and Medical dignitaries.


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In a personal tribute to Dr. Boobbyer a former colleague said of him:- By the death of Dr. Boobbyer the City of Nottingham has lost one of its most loyal servants and one of its most notable citizens. Endowed with a robust physique (he had been a “shot putter” in his youth) strong features and a fine head which, in his prime, was crowned with a wealth of glossy hair, Philip Boobbyer was a notable figure in any assembly. To this was added the charm of a cultured gentleman, a full pleasant voice, and an integrity which was proof alike against the blandishments of the crafty and the threats of the bully.


Fashioned thus, he lacked few of the qualifications of the local public official. If he had a shortcoming it was due to the fact that, combined with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his own branch of medicine, he had a lively imagination and a natural flow of words, and he found it difficult to avoid wandering into by-paths in the course of a statement. This sometimes proved irksome to his committee of busy men, who wanted to get on with the agenda. Nevertheless, they could not help but be, for there was something inherently wrong with the man who did not regard Boobbyer with respect and affection. Probably, also, his lack of experience in general practice prevented him from realizing fully the difficulties which beset men whose work is done under pressure amid difficult and depressing surroundings. His heart was perhaps too tender for an administrator, his judgment of persons being apt to be warped by sympathy for their needs. Boobbyer was at his best when dealing with an outbreak of smallpox. An intimation by a doctor of the existence of a suspicious rash on a patient brought him to the spot like a flash, and out would come a large pocket lens, with which he demonstrated the peculiarities of the smallpox vesicle. I remember once on an occasion of this kind we found the house locked up and the key not forthcoming, but that did not daunt him. Discovering that we could gain access to the first storey windows by way of the roof of an old greenhouse, he led the way over its crazy timbers and cracked panes, and I followed, wondering whether his fifteen stone or my fourteen stone would go through first!


His annual reports were able and instructive, and it was unfortuate that zeal for economy led his committee to stop printing them during the [first] war. When he retired, however he was permitted to issue a final account of his work for the city.


Accounts from the Nottingham Evening Post and Obituary Notices,

B.M.J., February 1st, 1930, page 221.


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PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS


Delivered 11th November, 1908


“The Birth Rates and Death Rates of Nottingham during the past 25 years as compared with other towns.”


At a meeting of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society on the 11th November, 1908 the President, Dr. Philip Boobbyer gave his introductory address on the birth rates and death rates of Nottingham during the past twenty five years as compared with other towns.


Taking the birth rate first, this showed a fall of 30 per cent in the last twenty five years; indeed, a decrease of some sort was to be found in almost all the civilised cities of the world, with certain exceptions such as those of Ireland, Spain, and other parts of  Austria and Russia. The probable explanation of the exception in these cases was the local maintenance of the old fashioned religious beliefs regarding the subject of marriage and its objects. Writers were not wanting to point to the probable outcome of this tendency, which was in the direction of the extinction of the families of the ruling and professional classes in favour of a reckless and thriftless proletariat.


Turning now to death rates, in the matter of both the general death rate from all causes and that from principal epidemic diseases, Nottingham showed a pretty steady improvement, like most other large towns, but after making due allowance for exceptional epidemics of measles, whooping cough, and diarrhoea, it seemed clear that progress in the right direction had latterly not been quite so rapid here as in the case of some other similar towns. This was especially true of the death rate from enteric fever, in which other towns, by radical forms in the matter of scavenging or refuse and sewage disposal, had outdistanced Nottingham.


During the year 1907, as the result of severe epidemics of measles, whooping cough, and autumnal diarrhoea, all occurring in the same year, the infant mortality for Nottingham had headed that of all other big towns. Pointing out that the local death rate from phthisis was actually less than that for London. As the result of twenty four years of public health work in the county and city of Nottingham, further defects of sanitation would have to be faced and made good, in particular the demolition or improvement of slum areas, as well as the substitution of water carriage system for the present system of dry pail closets.


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SURGEONS Nottinghams Eminent Surgeons and Physicians

The Grave of Dr Philip Boobyer, Rock Cemetery, Mansfield Road, Nottingham