George Godber

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George Godber

Born(1908-08-04)4 August 1908
Died7 February 2009(2009-02-07) (aged 100)
Known forChief Medical Officer, England

Sir George Edward Godber GCB (4 August 1908 – 7 February 2009) served as Chief Medical Officer for Her Majesty's Government in England from 1960 to 1973.[1] He was also part of the team that planned the National Health Service (NHS) and, as deputy Chief Medical Officer and subsequently Chief Medical officer, campaigned against smoking and for immunization against polio and diphtheria.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Godber was born on 4 August 1908, the son of Bessie Maud (née Chapman) and Isaac Godber, a nurseryman in Willington, Bedfordshire;[3] he was the third of seven children, 5 boys and 2 girls. When he was eleven he lost sight in one eye due to an accident.[4]

Godber was educated at Bedford Modern School between 1917 and 1920,[5] at Bedford School between 1920 and 1927,[6] and at New College, Oxford, where he read medicine, gained a rowing blue and took part in two losing boat races.[3] He was partly inspired to pursue the public health by his Warden, the historian H.A.L. Fisher who had been Lloyd George's Education Secretary.[7]

Another mentor was a young New College don, Richard Crossman, who was later to become Godber's Secretary of State for Health and Social Security.[7] He did his clinical training at The London Hospital and qualified in 1933.[8]


After completing his clinical training, Godber was employed in a variety of junior posts that gave him an insight into the state of the nation's health. At a casualty ward in a municipal hospital in London's Docklands, he found that many of his patients were people with serious diseases who were too poor to go to their GP and too proud to ask for a free service,[9] convincing him that a state-funded health service based on need was required.[10]

Limited by the lack of medical specialties afforded to him with the loss of his eye, and due to his aversion of taking fees from patients,[11] he decided to specialise in public health medicine and attended the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, earning a diploma in public health in 1936.[8]

In 1937, Godber became a county medical officer in Surrey where he worked on communicable diseases.[7] In 1939 he joined the Ministry of Health as a medical officer.[8] During World War II he worked in Birmingham administering the wartime Emergency Medical Services.

Godber served as Deputy Chief Medical Officer from 1950 to 1960.[12] He was instrumental is persuading the Royal College of Physicians to form a committee on smoking and lung cancer in 1958.[12] Their report Smoking and Health, published in 1962, was important in bringing the link to the attention of the public.[12]

Godber was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Bath in 1979.[12] He was appointed CB in 1958, KCB in 1962 and GCB in 1971. Godber celebrated his 100th birthday in August 2008 and died on 7 February 2009.[12]


  1. ^ "Godber, Sir George (Edward), (4 Aug. 1908–7 Feb. 2009), Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health and Social Security, Department of Education and Science, and Home Office, 1960–73". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U17325. ISBN 978-0-19-954089-1.
  2. ^ Klein, Rudolf (3 October 1990). "The state and the profession: the politics of the double bed". British Medical Journal. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Godber, Sir George Edward (1908 - 2009)". Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  4. ^ Godber, George (21 November 1987). "Living with one eye". British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Ed.). 295 (6609): 1351. doi:10.1136/bmj.295.6609.1351-c. ISSN 0267-0623. PMC 1248421.
  5. ^ Joyce Godber, The Harpur Trust 1552–1973, 1973, p.169
  6. ^ Obituary, The Ousel, 2009, pp. 167–168
  7. ^ a b c "Sir George Godber: Government's Chief Medical Officer who helped to". The Independent. 12 February 2009. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Richmond, Caroline (18 February 2009). "George Godber". BMJ. 338: b710. doi:10.1136/bmj.b710. ISSN 1468-5833. S2CID 220106722.
  9. ^ "Munks Roll Details for George Edward (Sir) Godber". Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Sir George Godber". The Daily Telegraph. 10 February 2009. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  11. ^ "Papers of: Godber, Sir George (b 1908) - Archives Hub". Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Sir George Godber". 10 February 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2019 – via

Further reading[edit]

  • Sheard, Sally (2006), The Nation's Doctor, London: The Nuffield Trust

External links[edit]