Francis Camps was the son of P.W.L. Camps FRCS, a successful general practitioner and laryngologist in Teddington. He was educated at Marlborough College and the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, and at Guy’s Hospital Medical School, where his father was before him. After two years in resident appointments at Guy’s, including house-physician to Children, he went to Liverpool and for some reason took the Diploma in Tropical Medicine. He then returned to London and became resident medical officer at Dr. (later Sir) Arthur Hurst’s New Lodge Clinic in 1932. Next year he went to Chelmsford as a general practitioner, became physician to the Chelmsford and Essex Hospital, and married Dulcie Williams, a Guy’s Nurse. He was later divorced and married, in 1941, Mary Ross Mackenzie MB ChB (Aberdeen). He had one son and one daughter.
He had all along been very undecided about his career, but he suddenly found his feet when in the 1930’s he helped in the pathology laboratory at the hospital, which had been running down. He realized that what he really enjoyed was organizing a service; he soon worked it up to a condition of excellence, and started doing the medico-legal work for two Guy’s men who were Essex Coroners, Drs. Skeels and Beccle, and the local CID. He worked with enormous diligence and enthusiasm. He was on Home Office and BMA committees, became Secretary and later President of the British Association in Forensic Medicine, and founded the Academy of Forensic Sciences, of which he was for ten years the Secretary and Editor of its Journal.
During the War, he and his laboratory were noticed by Prof. S.P. Bedson, who appreciated Camps’ interest in academic forensic science, and persuaded the London Hospital to appoint Camps a Lecturer and give him a small laboratory. In twenty years he had made this a model department, and had contributed greatly to the stature of academic forensics. By 1954 he was Reader, and in 1963 Professor of his subject. He took up for a time a great many things: streptococcal infection, alcoholism, battered babies, drug addiction, reform of certification and Coronership. He wrote profusely and with uncontrolled enthusiasm. With Prof. Cameron’s help he re-edited Gradwohl’s Legal Medicine so well that it won the Royal Society of Arts’ Swiney Prize in 1968. He was a popular lecturer, and his work was very highly appreciated by lawyers, especially defence lawyers, though they preferred to keep him out of the box. He broadcast and televised well, and was known to the public as a ‘Home Office Pathologist’. He cultivated anyone who was likely to be of use to his projects, but was so constantly and openly critical of other pathologists in his field that he courted considerable unpopularity.
After his retirement he married a doctor at the London Hospital, Dr. Anne Robinson, as his third wife, and was still busy, with much to do and little time to do it in, when, after some months of losing weight and tiredness he perforated a gastric ulcer, refused surgery, and died a few days later. He had done a great deal to establish forensic science both in this country and abroad.
[Brit.med.J., 1972, 3, 239; Lancet, 1972, 2, 139, 236; Times, 10 July, 1972]