Coombs was born in Castle Cary, Somerset on 5 September 1879.
He was awarded his M.B. in 1901, M.D. in 1903 and made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in 1917. He became physician at Bristol General Hospital in 1920 and director of the Bristol University Centre of Cardiac Research in 1927. During World War I he was a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in England, Egypt, Mesopotamia and France.
He is best known for his work involving rheumatic and coronary heart disease. He performed important studies of rheumatic fever, and described a rumbling mid-diastolic cardiac murmur that occurs in the acute phase of rheumatic fever. This cardiac murmur is now referred to as the "Carey Coombs murmur". In 1910 he made one of the earliest diagnoses of coronary thrombosis, and before his death in 1932, he had documented 144 cases of this condition.
His best written work is "Rheumatic Heart Disease", a book that was published in 1924. He is also remembered for his work in the management and prevention of childhood heart disease. In 1930 he delivered the Lumleian Lectures to the Royal College of Physicians. Coombs died on 9 December 1932.
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