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FRY, John (1922-1994)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2134 B/FRY
Held at: Royal College of General Practitioners
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Full title: FRY, John (1922-1994)
Date(s): 1946-1995
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 11 boxes
Name of creator(s): John Fry (1922-1994)


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Fry was born 16 June 1922, the son of a general practitioner. He was educated at Whitgift Middle School, Croydon, and graduated MB, BS in 1944 from Guy's Hospital. In 1955 he proceeded to MD. His first interest was in surgery and he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons at the early age of 24. However he soon turned to general practice, and just before the National Health Service was introduced, in the late 1940s, he became practitioner in Beckenham, Kent. Fry worked as a general practitioner until his retirement in 1991, never leaving to take up an academic post as some might have expected.

Fry built up a reputation for research and writing that influenced governments at home and abroad, and was arguably the leading research worker in the 1960s, writing and editing more books than any other general practitioner. His early books such as 'The Catarrhal Child' (1961) challenged the then routine procedure of tonsillectomy, whilst 'Profiles of Disease in Childhood' (1966) shed new light on the prognosis of many common chronic diseases. He was fundamental in introducing a new medical magazine, Update, and continued to write for this popular educational journal until his death. As the British Medical Journal explained in his obituary;

'his writings were widely distributed and discussed, and he became a key member of a small group who made general practice a medical discipline. His work was descriptive and analytical rather than experimental... his writing has been described as "user friendly" because it was usually straightforward, logical, and practical' (BMJ, 21 May 1994, Vol. 308, p.1367)
Within his practice he meticulously recorded, for forty years, every consultation that took place. Through this work

'he helped to reveal the goldmine of information which lay in the records of ordinary NHS family doctors... [and]... set an example of blending service work in general practice with academic research and writing which has inspired succeeding generations' (The Times, 6 May 1994)

Fry was a founder member of the College of General Practitioners (later the Royal College of General Practitioners) in 1953. He made a major contribution to the College's development, serving for 34 years on the College Council, and as a member of numerous College committees and working parties. He wrote several of the Present State and Future Needs reports.

The College honoured him with several of their highest awards over the years, including the James Mackenzie prize for research in 1964, the George Abercrombie Award, for his contribution to the literature of general practice, in 1977, the Sir Harry Jephcott Visiting Professorship, 1981/82, the Baron Dr ver Heyden de Lancey Memorial Award in 1984, and the highest of all, the Foundation Council Award in 1993, however he never became President.

In addition to his commitment to his practice and the College, Fry was a consultant to the World Health Organisation, 1965-83, and consultant in general practice to the Army, 1968-87. He was elected every year, between 1970-92, by the whole medical profession to the General Medical Council, where he became Senior Treasurer. The Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust established the John Fry Lecture after he became their longest serving trustee. He was appointed CBE in 1988. Throughout his career he was honoured with several notable awards, including the Sir Charles Hastings Prize of the British Medical Association, which he won twice, in 1960 and 1964, the Hunterian Society Gold Medal, which he also won twice, in 1956 and 1966. In 1968 he was awarded the James Mackenzie Medal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
Fry married twice, first to Joan Sabel in 1944, with whom he had a son and a daughter. Joan died in 1989. He was married a second time in 1989 to Trudy Amiel (nee Scher). Fry retired just three years before his death, on 28 April 1994, at the age of 71. In his remaining years he was debilitated by a chronic lung disease, although his mind remained alert to the end.


Scope and content/abstract:

A Professional papers relating to Fry's work as a general practitioner in Beckenham, Kent, 1948-91, where he undertook his extensive research into common diseases, including his diaries, accounts, patient records, administrative notes and statistics.

B Papers relating to Fry's role within the Royal College of General Practitioners, 1961-91, including publications about the College and draft papers relating to the Research Committee and the Board of Censors.

C-D Publications and papers by Fry and other authors on various [C] clinical and [D]non-clinical research subjects, arranged by topic, 1946-93

E Material relating to his other commitments at the World Health Organization (WHO), General Medical Council (GMC), the Keppel Club of Society of Social Medicine, and the Army. His editorial work for various journals and organisations like the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA), and lectures notes and publications relating to his overseas trips, and any related correspondence, 1953-94

F Biographic material relating to the more personal side of Fry's life, including correspondence relating to the depositing of his papers, 1973-95.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:


Conditions governing access:

Access is at the discretion of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Requests for access should be made in writing to The Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London, SW7 1PU

Conditions governing reproduction:

For further information on reproduction contact the Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London SW7 1PU

Finding aids:

Database down to file level available at Royal College of General Practitioners library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Papers transferred to Royal College of General Practitioners from the Royal Army Medical College (RAMC), 1995, having been deposited at the RAMC in November 1994 (5 cubic feet); additional papers donated by Dr Kenneth Scott, who worked in the Practice next door to Fry, April 2001 (2 archival boxes of practice records)

Immediate source of acquisition:

see archival history

Allied Materials

Related material:

Royal College of General Practitioners institutional records, GB/2134/A CE (Fry was a member of numerous committees and working parties)

The John Fry Room, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, London, houses John Fry's personal library of medical books, mounted photographs and artwork by members of his family.

The Royal Army Medical College records are held by the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, GB/NNAF/055066, the National Register of Archives (NRA) holds a catalogue, available for consultation in the NRA searchroom, NRA 5981 RAMC coll.

Publication note:

The Catarrhal Child', John Fry, (London: Butterworths, 1961); 'Profiles of Disease. A Study in the Natural History of Common Diseases', John Fry (Edinburgh & London: E. & S. Livingstone, 1966);
'Common Diseases: Their Nature Incidence and Care', John Fry (MTP Medical & Technical Publishing Co. Ltd., 1974; 2nd edition, Lancaster: MTP Press Ltd., 1979; 3rd edition, Lancaster: MTP Press Ltd., 1983);
'A History of the Royal College of General Practitioners: the First 25 Years', John Fry, Lord Hunt of Fawley and R.J.F.H. Pinsent (eds.) (RCGP, 1983)

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Katherine Williams

Rules or conventions:
National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal and Corporate Names, 1997; ISAD(G), Second Edition, 2000

Date(s) of descriptions:
December 2002

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