Terence East was born in Malvern. His father, Charles Henry East, had shown promise at King’s College Hospital and was house surgeon to Lord Lister and medical registrar, but he left to marry a King’s nurse, Amy Rynd; he practised for a time in Monmouthshire and then in Great Malvern until his retirement in 1921. Terence was educated at Wells House Preparatory School, Malvern, and at Winchester where he was President of the Boat Club. Leaving school at Christmas 1912, he spent three months attending classes in German at the University of Freiburg, and three months attending classes in French at the University of Lausanne before proceeding to New College in October 1913. In 1914 he was commissioned into the Northamptonshire Regiment and served in France where he was wounded three times, twice severely. Returning to Oxford at the end of the war, he took his MA degree in 1919. In that year, too, he gained a Burney Yeo scholarship to King’s College Hospital and was awarded the Welch Prize for the best anatomical drawings of the year at the Oxford Medical School. In 1920 he passed the primary examination for the FRCS and in 1921 he qualified, taking Conjoint, and the BM BCh of Oxford.
After qualifying, East was house physician to Crawfurd; resident pathologist and children’s house physician under Still. In 1922 he was appointed medical registrar and in the same year he took his Membership. While registrar he assisted H.H. Wiltshire in the electrocardiographic department which he had built up at the hospital. In 1924 Wiltshire was forced to retire through ill-health and East was appointed junior physician. This post carried with it that of morbid anatomist, with the responsibility of doing all the autopsies in the hospital, a task which East performed with great technical ability. A large audience, including colleagues, frequently attended the examinations, and many specimens were added to the hospital museum. He also took over the electrocardiographic department. Also in 1924 he was elected to the Radcliffe Travelling Fellowship of University College, Oxford, but his other commitments prevented him from travelling with the Fellowship. In 1927 he took his DM Oxford, and in the same year he was elected FRCP.
East was physician to King’s from 1924 until his retirement in 1959. In 1930 he gave up the post of morbid anatomist when he was appointed the first physician in charge of the Cardiological Department. From 1928 to 1939 he was physician to the Woolwich Memorial Hospital, and from 1945 to 1959 physician to the Sutton and Cheam Hospital. During the 1939-45 war his beds were moved to Horton Hospital, Epsom, where he continued teaching and was cardiologist to the hospital. In 1945 he became Senior Physician at King’s. As Director of Medical Studies he supervised the teaching of new students, arranged the courses of lectures in the Medical School and the examinations for class prizes. He also organized postgraduate courses.
In 1927 East was approached by J&A Churchill to contribute a volume on cardiology in their Recent Advances series. He accepted on the understanding that the work would be shared by C.W.C. Bain. The first edition of Recent Advances in Cardiology was published in 1929. Other editions followed in 1931, 1936, 1947 and 1959. The work required a review of all important papers appearing between editions, and East’s familiarity with French, German and Italian allowed the Continental literature to be included as well as the American. He also wrote Cardiovascular diseases in General Practice in 1938, which had run to three editions by 1949; and in 1937 Failure of the Circulation, with a second edition in 1948. In addition he contributed articles to the British Heart Journal, Lancet, and King’s College Hospital Gazette.
At the College of Physicians, East was elected a Councillor in 1952; he was Censor in 1953 and 1954 and Senior Censor in 1955. In 1956 and 1957 he gave the Fitzpatrick Lectures, taking as his subject The Story of Heart Disease, in which he traced the history of heart disease under the headings of diagnosis, morbid anatomy, coronary circulation, and therapeutics. He read the hundreds of references himself and made his own translations from the Latin, old French and German.
East was on the Panel of Examiners for the Membership, and he examined in Medicine at the final BM at Oxford. He was on the Council of the British Cardiac Society from 1940 to 1942, and was Assistant Editor of the British Heart Journal from 1954 to 1956. He was Principal Medical Officer to the National Provident Society from 1931 to 1959, and to the Life Association of Scotland from 1935 to 1955.
As a teacher East was popular in spite of the fact that his habit of mumbling made him inaudible even to those at the foot of the bed. His colleagues all rated him a great clinician, having the knack of excluding irrelevancies and of following important clues to a correct diagnosis. He was definitely a character, going his own way, and this quality endeared him to students who frequently took him off at the Christmas shows. He paid small regard to conventional opinion. He always wore light coloured clothes because he preferred them, and was seemingly unaware how incongruous he looked advancing fully robed as Senior Censor in the Procession in a light green suit. His style of writing was individual and rather staccato, with frequent sentences of four or five words, but he was always careful that his meaning was easily understood. Terence was not an easy man to know. He did not enjoy social occasions and made few acquaintances. Moreover, anyone who did not match up to his standards faded out of his consciousness altogether, but once accepted you were his friend for life.
His hobbies were many and various. He had a deep appreciation of music and was a competent piano player. He was a skilful painter in water colours and was at one time Hon Secretary of the Medical Arts Society. He was a keen botanist, and in suitable weather he used to walk over Wimbledon Common before breakfast studying the plant life. The parties he took to the Chelsea Physic Gardens where he discoursed upon the ‘excellent herbs’ grown there, and upon the names associated with them, were much appreciated by generations of King’s men. At weekends he went sailing in Suffolk, keeping both an auxiliary sloop and a dinghy.
Terence East was twice married: in 1924 to Muriel Louise Stein, by whom he had a daughter; later he married her sister, Zoe Beatrice Stein, and had two sons.
When he retired he took a house on the North Cornish coast a few miles from Padstow at St Merryn, where his wife had been brought up. Here he was able to enjoy his old hobbies of gardening, painting, and sailing on the Camel estuary. He was also interested in old churches, and especially in brasses, and with Dr Bain he visited most of the mediaeval churches in Cornwall over a period of years.
His end was sudden and unexpected. After a day spent working in his garden, he waited up to welcome his son and daughter-in-law who were driving down from London. Early next morning his wife was awakened by his stertorous breathing, and he died six hours later without regaining consciousness.
[Brit.med.J., 1967, 3, 684, 805 & 4, 117; Lancet, 1967, 2, 573; Times, 29 Aug 1967 & Sept 1967; Wimbledon Boro’ News, 8 Sept 1967]