Stephen Aiming was born in Leeds and came from a medical family, his father and two uncles being general practitioners in Leeds; his brother and two cousins were also doctors. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and from there went to Clare College, Cambridge, returning to Leeds for his clinical experience. He qualified in 1932 and, after house appointments at the Leeds Infirmary, he served as a ship’s surgeon with the Blue Funnel Line before joining a general practice in Leeds.
He enlisted in the Territorials and was in camp when war was declared. He served as a medical officer in the Middle East and became a graded specialist, and later an OC medical division with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served in North Africa, Persia (as it then was), and later in Greece and Italy. He became very fond of the latter country and frequently visited it after the war, renewing war time friendships with Italian families there. While in the Middle East he successfully completed an MD thesis on Desert Sores.
After the war ended he remained on the Territorial reserve of officers and in 1953 was commissioned in the Army Emergency Reserve, being appointed OC medical division of No 27 General Hospital which (on paper) had 1800 beds. In 1955 he was given command of this hospital with the rank of full colonel, which he held until 1959. He was awarded the Territorial Decoration.
He returned to general practice for a short time, but decided to specialize; this entailed his taking the MRCP which he obtained in 1948, becoming an FRCP ten years later. He was encouraged to take up dermatology by John Ingram, and joined the skin department of Leeds General Infirmary as dermatological tutor in 1946. Ingram’s choice of Aiming was influenced partly by his MD thesis on Desert Sores, but probably more so by the contribution which his experience in general and social medicine, gained from his time in general practice, would bring to a department where the importance of these factors in skin patients was constantly being stressed. He was appointed assistant physician in 1950 and full physician in 1960. He was head of the department from 1969 until he retired in 1973.
When he joined the skin department he took over the leg ulcer clinic and his experience there led him eventually to write a very useful book on the subject. It was no coincidence that the first chapter dealt with the history of such ulcers, as he had always been interested in medical history. He wrote numerous articles and several books on the subject, including two volumes on the history of the Leeds General Infirmary (The General Infirmary at Leeds, Edin. 1963-1966), a history of medicine in Leeds, and a history of the Leeds School of Medicine published, with K Walls, in time for the 150th anniversary of the School.
On this occasion his historical writing was recognized by Leeds University who awarded him the honorary degree of master of philosophy. His historical work was also appreciated beyond Leeds, and the Society of Apothecaries appointed him as one of their small group of honorary lecturers in the history of medicine. He also became the first librarian of the Willan library at the Royal College of Physicians, and was on the College library committee for three years.
Besides his clinical work, Stephen Anning contributed a great deal to the Leeds General Infirmary in other ways. He was on the board of governors, and for many years the very conscientious secretary of the medical faculty. He was on the combined planning committee of the Infirmary and University to consider the erection of an integrated medical centre in Leeds. For some years he was a non-professorial member of the University senate. He had his year of office as president of the Leeds and West Riding Medico-chirurgical Society, and also of the Leeds and West Riding Medico-legal Society. He was an active member of the Thoresby society, the main historical society in Leeds, and on the committee of the Leeds library, the oldest private library in the country, founded in 1768, about the same time as the Leeds Infirmary.
Stephen Anning was a very sociable and hospitable man with a happy family life and a large circle of friends, many of whom had been patients when he was in general practice. He was a great reader and was interested in antique furniture and china, and also in motor cars. Above all, he was a sympathetic and understanding physician. He was survived by his wife, son and daughter.
[Brit.med.J., 1984, 288, 80; Lancet, 1983, 2, 1434]