Alexander Polycleitos Cawadias was born in Athens, a Greek of Greeks, with all their restless energy of body and mind. His father, a professor of archaeology, devoted his life and his fortune to the restoration of the theatre in Epidaurus, in the modem use of which for opera and ballet Alexander Cawadias was to play an important part during his last years (he was to be, while in London, physician to Colonel de Basil’s Russian Ballet). After schooling in Athens, he went to France to study philosophy in Montpellier and Paris, taking his baccalaureate in the University of Paris in 1901. Later he went to Bonn and Heidelberg. He served as Resident Physician at the Paris teaching hospital from 1906 to 1910, receiving his MD there in 1910. His career in academic medicine in Paris seemed secure with his election as Chef de Clinique under Professor Chantemesse in the Paris Faculty in 1912. During this Paris period, when he was Interne des Hôpitaux under Professor Robin, he was often to be seen at the Wednesday dinner parties of Mme de Caillavet, the mistress of Anatole France, whose literary salon has been immortalised by Marcel Proust. A frequent guest, even in this coterie and despite his youth his gift for conversation was notable and greatly admired.
Ever a patriot, the outbreak of the Balkan Wars in 1912 drew him back to Greece to serve his country and to fight the cholera epidemic in Salonika, where in World War I he acted as liaison officer in the British Sector, being appointed OBE in 1918.
In 1914, on the nomination of Queen Olga, he had been appointed Chief of the Medical Clinic in the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, a post held until 1926. A personal friend of the Greek Royal family and devoted to them, he found the anti-royalist, political and personal intrigues in the Greek medical world incompatible with his work. In 1926 he followed them to exile in London, qualifying with the MD, Durham, in that year and settling down in Wimpole Street, where he quickly established himself in consulting practice mainly among the wealthy Greek colony and foreign visitors, specializing in diseases of metabolism and endocrinology. He wrote four books on these topics in the next 20 years.
Cawadias married in 1914 Sophie Victoria Constantinides, daughter of a banker. They had one son and a daughter who became Lady (Nicholas) Henderson.
In 1962, a young man of 78, he returned to Athens where he continued to write and to lecture to packed audiences on subjects ranging from Old Age and Drink to more definitely medical topics until the year before he died in 1971.
for Cawadias everything had begun with Hippocrates on Cos. While he welcomed the technical advances which aided our understanding of the workings of the body, he believed such knowledge to be useless, even dangerous, unless harnessed to the neo-Hippocratic method. Man can be itemised, dismembered, dissected, but sound practice demands the whole man, and more than this, the whole man in his total environment.
[Lancet, 1971, 2, 1268; Times, 23 Nov 1971]