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Peter Cull

Professor Peter George Cull MBE, FMAA, Hon FIMI, OBSt.J (1927 – 2012)
Emeritus Professor of Medical Art, University of London

This is a concise but presently essential version of the tribute to Peter Cull that is forthcoming in the Journal of Visual Communication in Medicine. For that reason, I will remark on Peter Cull, the outstanding and capable human, rather than cataloguing minutely for the meantime all his achievements and distinctions, immense though they were. We lost Peter to critical illness on Tuesday 1st May. We offer our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to Mrs Bettine Cull and the entire family on this sad occasion.

It is an honour and privilege to be asked to write this homily. It is a sad duty though, mixed with the incredulity always felt when a person of so much charisma and joie de vivre is snatched away. Peter was an intellectual giant; a man of consummate vision and creativity with enormous personal integrity and discretion. I was fortunate to be able to experience this pre-eminence first hand when I worked with him.

The esteem with which he was held among academic and medical staff at Barts Hospital Medical College was palpable. He ranked among the most senior staff in the College and contributed importantly to its life. He had powerful convictions of what was right. In his more than thirty years at Barts, he subtly advised a succession of deans. The calibre of staff in his department bore witness to his professionalism. The highest compliment I can pay him is that I willingly relinquished my head of department position at another hospital in order to join him as his deputy, so that I could relish his philosophies closely and join the kind of department I had always wanted mine to be.

It must not be overlooked that, over forty years ago Peter Cull, the forward thinker, was a founder member of The Institute of Medical and Biological Illustration, the precursor of IMI, after the Brynmor Jones Report had indicated a need to recognise professionals engaging in the (then) new sphere of educational technology in British higher education. It is easy to detect in this Peter’s prescience for an inclusive professional body. In another direction, his part was crucial in securing the patronage of The Worshipful Company of Barbers for the Medical Artists’ Association of Great Britain—a prodigious ‘feather in the cap’ for them all. Another manifestation of his conspicuous insight was that medical illustrators at large needed a self-regulatory body (in the absence of state registration) as assurance of their professional standing and for their own protection. Springing from this was the scheme of national registration, culminating in the formation of CAMIP—now held in such high regard—that enjoys the support of five senior royal colleges in medicine; all this of Peter’s own devising. Together, we developed a policy for written, informed consent for patients undergoing clinical illustrative recording that underlies today’s good practice protocols. The apogee of his accomplishments was the award of a national honour coincidentally with attainment of a personal chair in medical art at the University of London.

He was an avuncular, warm, amusing and erudite figure who nurtured many grateful students. The tributes to him that I am receiving to help me write this eulogy characterise him as a much-loved friend, teacher and inspirational man. One such message says, “…such sad news; like you, I regarded him with great affection and I have to say that he was the biggest influence on me during my early years. I am saddened to hear that he was so poorly, as he was one of those people in our lives, so large a character, [that]I imagined would live forever and be sparky till his end.” And another, “He will be missed by so many, as a much respected professional and dear and cherished friend.” There can be no more lustrous testimonies than these.

Cedric Gilson
May 2012

You can also read an obituary written by his son and published in the Guardian on 7th May 2012

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