Tom Armstrong was born in Krugersdorp, South Africa, where his father was a resident magistrate. He came to Britain for his university education and graduated with a BA from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1931. In 1934 he qualified in medicine with the conjoint, followed by the Cambridge degree in 1935 and his membership of the College in 1936. He was greatly influenced by John A Ryle [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV,595] who became his close friend.
During the second world war Tom Armstrong was among the first of the RAMC doctors to be sent to the Middle East. He was based at a Cairo Military Hospital and later a casualty clearing station, and was subsequently promoted to lieutenant colonel. On demobilization in 1946 he returned to South Africa and set up a private practice in Durban. He was also appointed visiting physician to St Aidan’s Hospital and the King Edward VIII Hospital. While at the latter hospital he did considerable research on amoebic dysentery, a common complaint in South Africa, and developed an interest in cardiology which led him to study under Velva Schrire of Cape Town [Munk's Roll, Vol. VI,p.40] and later, in London, under Paul Wood [Munk's Roll, Vol. V,p.456]. On his return to South Africa again, he was instrumental in setting up the sub-department of cardiac surgery and cardiology in Durban.
In 1970 he gave up private practice and joined the staff of Wentworth Hospital as a full time consultant physician, and at the same time was appointed a lecturer in cardiology in the sub-department of cardiology at the University of Natal. He became interested in the haemodynamics of constrictive pericarditis, and made a valuable contribution in the field of valvular heart disease; describing the left atrial lift as being distinctive from the right ventricular heave. He also wrote papers in connexion with the genesis of the various components of the first heart sound.
Tom spent a considerable amount of time with his patients and was much loved by them; he was a particularly kind man and not only concerned himself with their medical problems but also helped many with their social or economic difficulties. An excellent teacher, he contributed a great deal to the training of medical postgraduates at the University of Natal and assisted in the training of senior registrars, more particularly in the area of non-invasive cardiology. He retired from full time practice in 1981, due to ill health, but continued to work part-time at the Wentworth Hospital, finally retiring at the end of 1984.
In his younger days Tom was interested in gliding and obtained a certificate of qualification, accompanying many gliding teams to various parts of Europe. He enjoyed outdoor life, especially trout fishing, and was interested in horticulture, being well acquainted with the indigenous flora of South Africa. He had a small farm on the outskirts of Durban where he constantly experimented with seed cultivation, being particularly interested in proteas. After a visit to Italy, he found a new interest in theatre and opera.
His wife, Yvonne, survived him.
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme