This book is not for the squeamish, the religiose or the prudish. Surprising perhaps, seeing that it is the autobiography of a physician; but then Geoffrey Dean is no ordinary physician. Brought up in Liverpool in a family with Irish ancestry, he seemed set on a standard medical career, but not liking the scramble for places on the professional ladder in Britain after the war, he went to seek his fortune in South Africa, leaving a newly wed wife with her parents. The gods, it is said, help those who help themselves and this has seldom been illustrated more clearly than by the incidents that set Geoffrey on his feet as a consultant physician in Port Elizabeth with his membership of the Royal College of Physicians but no previous consultant appointment.
But if he was fortunate in the way he got established locally, it was Geoffrey's own perspicacity that led him to follow through the strange attacks of paralysis that had baffled colleagues and to discover a new strain of porphyria that affected thousands of the descendants of one of the early Dutch settlers, just as it had earlier led him and a colleague to the discovery of cylinders of oil contaminated with orthotricresyl phosphate that were causing Liverpool dock workers to develop peripheral paralysis.
No one who reads this book can fail to be enriched by it, by the insight gained into the pressures on the crews of RAF bombers, the procedures by which medical discoveries are made, the extent of the cover-up of police atrocities during the apartheid era in South Africa, and the effects of personal tragedy on religious belief. Geoffrey Dean's historical hero is Thomas More and I leave it to the reader to decide whether Geoffrey has succeeded in his aim of also being a ‘man for all seasons’.
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