The Heart Club PDF: A history of London’s heart surgery pioneers
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Central to this book are the Minutes of the Peacock Club. These are the consecutive accounts of 47 meetings in Guy’s Hospital from April 1947 to March 1956. They are in a small bound volume which is now in the historical collection of the British Cardiovascular Society in Fitzroy Square in London. The volume was found by Dr John Chambers among books and papers on the shelves of Guy’s cardiology department. The building, the old Hunt’s House, was demolished not long afterwards and the Minutes might easily have been lost had John Chambers not saved them. The work of the Peacock Club is recorded in the Minutes of 47 meetings from 1948 to 1956 but as to the history of the volume itself I am left guessing. The bound volume is made up of several exercise books with ruled pages. Some of the earlier minutes were hand written. Later they were more often typed and pasted onto the pages. The minutes clearly antedate the binding because in several instances, marginal content has been lost due to cropping in the binding process. The Minutes were routinely signed and dated. The date on which they were signed matches that of the next meeting, so they are consecutive. The last Minute is for March 1956 and is unsigned; it appears that there was no subsequent meeting at which to sign them. The year coincides with Maurice Campbell retiring from Guy’s Hospital. From then, who was the custodian of the Minutes and who had them bound? At this point I do not know. In 1951 in the first few years of the Club Russell Brock wrote: Intracardiac surgery is not for the lone worker.
Team work is essential. To give one example, at Guy’s there is a group of some 15 people actively engaged in the work, and as time passes we find that more and more are drawn into the team.1 The group he refers to was the Peacock Club. But why the name ‘Peacock’? It is explained in the first few meetings. The Club was named after Dr Thomas Peacock. In his 1858 book on malformations of the human heart2 he gave a clear description of the four components of the congenital malformation, generally known as Fallot’s Tetralogy. As a guide to navigating this book the headings below indicate the contents of the successive chapters. The chapters are interrelated to some degree but are self-contained and do not have to be read consecutively. Peace returns to Guy’s Hospital 1945–1948 This first chapter sets the scene in London 1945 when Guy’s Hospital began to function normally again. The medical and outpatient work of the hospital returned from Orpington in Kent where it had been since 1939 under the leadership of Dr Maurice Campbell. Russell Brock had remained in London while the hospital suffered bombing and fire damage. Campbell and Brock are central to this story. From the relative safety of Tunbridge Wells, the students and preclinical teachers of the medical school came back to Guy’s. Dr Boland, back from the North African theatre of war, was made their Dean. He immediately set about establishing exchange visits for the clinical teachers with Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the first of whom was Alfred Blalock. The chapter closes with the founding of the Peacock Club.
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