Pitman, Henry Alfred (DNB12)

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PITMAN, Sir HENRY ALFRED (1808–1908), physician, born in London on 1 July 1808, was youngest of the seven children of Thomas Dix Pitman, a solicitor in Furnival's Inn, by his wife Ann Simmons, of a Worcester family. Educated privately, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1827, where he graduated B.A. in 1832. After travelling abroad for a year he spent six months in the office of his brother-in-law, who was a solicitor, and thus obtained a training in business methods. He then turned to medicine, working first for a year at Cambridge and then at King's College and at St. George's Hospital; in 1835 he graduated M.B. at Cambridge, and after passing in 1838 the then necessary additional examination for the licence at that university, he proceeded M.D. in 1841. In 1840 he became a licentiate (equivalent to member), and in 1845 a fellow, of the Royal College of Physicians of London. In 1846 he was elected assistant physician, and in 1857 physician and lecturer on medicine at St. George's Hospital. He resigned in 1866 and was the first to be elected consulting physician there. After being censor in 1856-7, he was in 1858, in succession to Dr. Francis Hawkins [q. v.], elected registrar to the Royal College of Physicians.

Pitman, whose mental equipment was rather of the legal than of the medical order, had a gift for administration. He was long identified with the management of the Royal College of Physicians and the regulation and arrangement of the medical curriculum. The Medical Act of 1858 entailed numerous changes in the organisation of the college, which then surrendered the power to confer the exclusive right to practise in London. He was largely responsible for the translation of the old Latin statutes of the college into English bye-laws and regulations in harmony with the Medical Acts of 1858 and 1860. He took a prominent part in the construction of the first edition of the 'Nomenclature of Diseases,' which was prepared by the college for the government, being begun in 1859 and published in 1869. A fresh edition is issued decennially. He was largely responsible for the initiation and organisation of the conjoint examining board in England of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons, and it was in recognition of his work on the new diplomas (L.R.C.P., M.R.C.S.) that he was knighted in 1883. He also took an active part in the institution of a special examination and diploma in public health. From 1876 to 1886 he was the representative of the college on the general council of medical education and registration, and in 1881 chairman of the executive committee of the council. He resigned the registrarship of the College of Physicians in 1889, being then elected emeritus registrar.

Pitman died at the patriarchal age of 100 at Enfield on 6 Nov. 1908, and was buried in the Enfield cemetery. He married in 1852 Frances (d. 11 Nov. 1910), only daughter of Thomas Wildman of Eastbourne, and had issue three sons and four daughters.

A portrait by Ouless hangs in the reading-room of the Royal College of Physicians, to which it was presented on behalf of some of the fellows by Sir Risdon Bennett in 1886.

[Autobiography in Lancet, 1908, ii. 1418; Brit. Med. Journal, 1908, ii. 1528; presidential address at the Royal College of Physicians by Sir R. Douglas Powell, Bt., K.C.V.O., on 5 April 1909.]

H. D. R.