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Early days in congenital heart surgery in the UK: the Peacock Club
  1. Tom Treasure
  1. Correspondence to Professor Tom Treasure, Clinical Operational Research Unit, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK; tom.treasure{at}

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Dr Campbell: two lectures with contradictory conclusions

Dr Maurice Campbell (1891–1973) was from 1936 the first Secretary of the British Cardiac Society, and in 1938 he was the first editor of the British Heart Journal, but it was as a general physician that he went on 3 September 1939 to Orpington, Kent, with a contingent of 87 nurses, to set up an outpost hospital away from the London bombing for the duration of the Second World War. In January 1946 after his return, he gave one of the standard lunchtime lectures to the staff and clinical students on the subject of congenital heart disease. In keeping with a practice which persisted until my time as a student in the 1960s, a transcript appeared in Guy’s Hospital Gazette soon after. Dr Campbell opened by saying ‘Sometimes this seems a dull subject because of the lack of treatment for this condition, so that there is a feeling that it does not much matter about the diagnosis’. He explained that making the diagnosis was necessary to forewarn parents of a bleak prognosis. This was his justification for teaching congenital heart disease to the students. He gave a very different account in the Gazette in October 1947. Campbell then knew the results of Blalock’s operations in children with Fallot’s tetralogy in their hundreds at Johns Hopkins, and in 10 children at Guy’s during Blalock’s visit in September 1947. In the Gazette Campbell wrote specifically about ‘a little boy …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Author note The original minutes of the Peacock Club are in the Historical Collection of the British Cardiovascular Society, and a full transcript is in The Heart Club: A History of London’s Heart Surgery Pioneers by Tom Treasure (published by Clink Street Publishing, 21 September 2017, in hardback and ebook) and is available to purchase from online retailers including Amazon, Waterstones, and Barnes & Noble, and to order from all good bookstores.