Oxford Dictionary of National BiographyDawson, Bertrand Edward, Viscount Dawson of Penn (1864–1945), physicianby Stephen LockDawson, Bertrand Edward, Viscount Dawson of Penn (1864–1945), physician, was bornat Duppas Hill, Croydon, on 9 March 1864, the fourth son and fifth child of Henry Dawson, architect, and his wife, Frances Emily, daughter of Obadiah Wheeler. He was educated at St Paul's School and University College, London: he lived at University Hall when Henry Morley was principal. In 1884 he entered the London Hospital as a medical student; he graduated BSc in 1888 and qualified in 1890, becoming MRCS in the same year. He became MD and MRCP in 1893, and FRCP in 1903.Dawson earned his living through hospital appointments and as a lecturer, and in1896, when he became assistant physician at the London Hospital, he launched himself as a private consultant. He had consulting rooms in Harley Street, and from 1903 in Wimpole Street until the building was bombed in 1940. As was customaryat the time, his interests ranged widely. His textbook chapters dealt with diabetes mellitus, diabetes insipidus, influenza, rheumatoid arthritis, and the physical examination of the stomach and intestines. The Lancet later described his contribution to clinical medicine as ‘respectable rather than remarkable
’ (Lancet, 353). Remembering these years of struggle, with few opportunities for research, inlater life he took an active part in the foundation of a postgraduate medical school at London University (pressing that it should be sited at Kenwood, in Hampstead). On 18 December 1900 Dawson married Minnie Ethel Yarrow (b. 1878/9), daughter of Alfred Fernandez Yarrow, shipbuilder and also a principal patron of theLondon Hospital; they had three daughters. Dawson became full physician at the London Hospital in 1906 and was appointed physician-extraordinary to King EdwardVII, a post which he retained with King George V until 1914, when he became physician-in-ordinary. In 1911 he was appointed KCVO.After the outbreak of the First World War, Dawson, who had become commandant ofthe 2nd London General Hospital in the Territorial Army in 1908, went to Franceas consulting physician with the acting rank of major-general. He attended the king after he had suffered a serious fall from his horse on a visit to the frontin France in 1915, and remained in the country until 1919. Although his time waslargely occupied with hospital organization, Dawson used his experiences of warto write on paratyphoid, trench fever, infective gastroenteritis, and influenza; he also organized an official investigation into cases of jaundice in the trenches, which proved to be the newly described Weil
s disease. Nor was Dawson oblivious of the manifestations of battle stress in the troops, and he set up four base camps in France at Wimereux, Étaples, Rouen, and Étretat, which were specially concerned with studying and treating ‘soldiers
heart’. ‘The years in France convincedDawson that while the “diseases of invasion” were receding before the advance of medical knowledge the “diseases of stress” would multiply with the quickening pace of life’ (DNB).As in the case of recruits for the South African War, the First World War also revealed that the British standard of fitness was low. Dawson saw that it was going to become the duty of the medical profession as much to promote national health as to cure sickness in the individual. In particular, whatever the difficulties, the 1911 Insurance Act had to be linked with a universal health service. InJuly 1918 Dawson developed his ideas in two Cavendish lectures entitled ‘The nation
s welfare: the future of the medical profession’, given before the West London Medico-Chirurgical Society. Their audiences may have been small, but the influence of the lectures was immense. Widely publicized in both The Lancet and the British Medical Journal, they were reprinted as a pamphlet (to which Dawson added the term ‘health centre’, used for the first time). As a result he was drawn into thegovernment consultations concerning the formation of a ministry of health, and in 1919 he was made chairman of the consultative council on medical and allied services set up by Christopher Addison, the first minister of health.