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Ambrose J King
  1. R S Morton,
  2. S M Laird

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    Ambrose John King died in September 2000, aged 98. He was among the last of a long line of surgeons to distinguish themselves in the care of people with venereal diseases.

    He qualified at the London Hospital in 1924 and acquired the English FRCS in 1929. His training in venereology took place at the London Hospital's Whitechapel Clinic under the direction of Dr Burke. He also spent time in Earle Moore's department at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA. He brought back from America a Kettering Hypertherm (for the fever treatment of Reiter's disease), which was the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom. By the late 1930s, he was already a very active member of the Medical Society for the Study of Venereal Diseases and the International Union against Venereal Diseases and Treponematosis (IUVDT).

    As a territorial officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he was called up immediately war was declared. He was southern command adviser in venereology in the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, near Southampton. In addition to a demanding clinical commitment, he undertook training of junior officers. It was at Netley that he worked with Claude Nicol, the first of a series of protégés to distinguish themselves in the specialty.

    With the return of peace, Ambrose brought distinction to the Whitechapel Clinic, to which many postgraduate students came from overseas. He busied himself by directing a steady stream of research reports. He became president of the MSSVD and the IUVDT, and as UK representative on WHO's Expert Committee, he was one of a group of venereologists to visit the USSR and find its VD service of a commendable order. His undergraduate teaching, like his textbook, co-authored with Claude Nicol, was popular.

    As adviser to the Department of Health and Social Services, he pursued a variety of ideas. His contributions to its chief medical officer's annual report were published in the British Journal of Venereal Diseases; he sought and was given permission to visit clinics in the provinces; he introduced auditing of contact tracing in syphilis and gonorrhoea and was instrumental in altering the VD regulations to ensure that those employed in such work were secure from accusations of libel and slander.

    Outside medicine, Ambrose was interested in rugby football and was president of the London Hospital Rugby XV. A keen gardener at his Sussex cottage, he was also interested in horse racing. He was a widower for many years. As a devout Catholic he was also active in church affairs, receiving several honours from the Vatican.

    On retirement from the London Hospital, he was given a formal luncheon, presented with his portrait in oils, painted by his successor, Eric Dunlop, and the Whitechapel Clinic was named after him.

    Ambrose did not suffer fools gladly, but those who came to know him well found a gentle, well rounded person with a sense of humour.