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Fletcher, Charles Montague (1911-1995)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/CMF
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Fletcher, Charles Montague (1911-1995)
Date(s): 1886-1996
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 4 archive boxes
Name of creator(s): Fletcher | Charles Montague | 1911-1995 | epidemiologist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Charles Montague Fletcher, the son of Sir Walter Morley Fletcher (see PP/WMF), was born in 1911. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and was in the team that won the University Boat Race in 1933. He studied medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital where he graduated in 1937.

Whilst at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, as a house physician and research student to Professor Leslie Witts, Fletcher was involved in the early clinical investigations of penicillin. He administered the first injection of penicillin to a human patient in 1941. His name appears on the tablet in the penicillin memorial rose garden outside Oxford Botanical Gardens.

He joined the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit in South Wales as Director in 1945 until 1952. It was here that he became aware of the differences in interpreting the same chest x-rays by different observers - "observer error". To ensure better standardisation he designed a semi-quantitive scoring system which is now used worldwide. For his work on pneumoconiosis he was awarded the CBE in 1952.

In 1952, Fletcher wished to return to general medicine. Sir John McMichael invited him to join as a consultant physician and a reader in clinical epidemiology (1952 - 1973) at the Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital, where he later became Professor (Emeritus) of Clinical Epidemiology, 1973 -1976. He spent 20 years studying the history of bronchitis and emphysema, and showed conclusively that chronic bronchitis sufferers would improve if they stopped smoking rather than take antibiotics.

From 1958 until 1965 he presented the BBC series Your Life In Their Hands and Television Doctor, 1969-1970. He continued as a medical advisor with the BBC until 1972. He was criticised by the medical profession for giving information to patients concerning their illnesses as it was deemed as harmful to the patient.

Fletcher was instrumental in founding Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) (see SA/ASH) and was their first chairman (1971 - 1978) and later their president (1979 - 1995). In April 1995 he gave an account of the early years of ASH to the symposium "Ashes to Ashes". He retired in 1976, spending much if his time in the Isle of White. He died on 15 Dec 1995 after suffering a stroke.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Charles Montague Fletcher including material relating to his father and the various organisations that Fletcher was involved in, including ASH, section J, from 1983-1995; Institute of Medical Ethics, section F, 1992-1993; and the working party for patient information leaflets covering the period 1980 - 1990, section F. Section C comprises articles and correspondence for the period 1984-1993, relating to Fletcher's involvement in the clinical trials of penicillin. Section D concerns Fletcher's work in television and communication skills of the medical profession, 1967-1983. Other issues touched upon include general material on smoking, pneumoconiosis and asthma; euthanasia, including some material on the Voluntary Euthanasia Society; and much material relating to medical communication.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The archive is divided into sections as follows:
A Personal Material
B Material relating to Sir Walter M. Fletcher
C Penicillin Story
D Broadcasting
E Euthanasia
F Society of Medical Ethics
G Institute of Medical Ethics
H Pneumoconiosis
J Action on Smoking and Health
K Smoking
L National Asthma Campaign
M Patient Information Leaflet (PIL)
N Royal College of Physicians: Communications and Membership
P The Medical Interview Teaching Association (MITA)
Q Paper for BMJ on communication skills
R Lectures
S Own Publications
T Development of Airflow Obstruction

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated by Mrs Louisa Fletcher, November 1996.

Allied Materials

Related material:

In the Wellcome Library:
There are additional Fletcher items in the papers of Action on Smoking and Health (SA/ASH) relating to his involvement with them.
Recordings of Fletcher interviewed by Max Blythe can be found in the Library's Moving Image and Sound Collections.
In addition to the material held in this collection, his father Sir Walter M. Fletcher has his own collection of personal papers in the Library (PP/WMF).
Sir Charles and Sir Walter are both represented as correspondents in the papers of Sir Edward and Lady Mellanby (PP/MEL).

At other repositories: Further papers of Fletcher are held by Cambridge University: Churchill Archives Centre: Ref: AVHL - Correspondence with A.V. Hill, 1948-1978.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2009

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