Designatory Letters: 
MB Cape Town 1946, MD Cape Town 1954, PhD Edin, DPN Lond 1956, MRCP Edin 1966, MD Uppsala 1984

(Contributed by Norman Kreitman)

Henry Walton was born and raised in a farming district of South Africa to an English-speaking father and an artistic, Afrikaans-speaking mother. After schooling and university study he qualified in medicine in 1945 from Cape Town University and subsequently trained as a neurologist but was actually directed by the authorities to become a psychiatrist. This he did, and his work attracted the attention of Sir Aubrey Lewis at the Maudsley Hospital in London, who invited him to come to Britain. Here, over the next few years, he divided his time between further training, holding a Reseach Fellowship at Columbia University and periodic returns to South Africa as head of the psychiatry department there. In 1967 he joined the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, which thereafter became his main base, and where in 1967 he was appointed professor.

One of Henry’s main contributions to clinical psychiatry was his work in an inpatient unit for alcoholism, which became a major training centre, attracting students from many disciplines and in remarkably large numbers. He also wrote, in collaboration with Neil Kessel, ’Alcohol and Alcoholism’, a semi-popular text which became a best-seller in its field. Closely associated was his work on inpatient psychotherapy; his second unit developed and disseminated a wide range of techniques, most with a psychoanalytic orientation, though his special pursuit was phenomenology in which he maintained a keen interest throughout his life.

Although he never lost touch with psychiatry altogether, Henry resigned his chair in 1986 to take up a professorship in international medical education. He was the founder of the World Federation for Medical Education and organised a two-stage international conference that produced a set of guidelines for medical schools which were widely adopted and remain highly influential to this day. For his work in this area he received honorary degrees from universities in Sweden, Portugal and Argentina and was honoured in various ways by academic bodies in no less than seven foreign countries. He played a leading role in relation to the Association for Medical Education as President and was editor of its journal for more than a decade.

Yet for many of his innumerable friends Henry was regarded not as a psychiatrist but as an art connoisseur and collector. His passion for collecting began in his student days and continued throughout his life. Sustained by no more than an academic salary allied to a critical eye, he built up a collection which became renowned, mostly of modern paintings but also a great variety of other kinds of artwork. Late in life he bequeathed the entire collection to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where it will be permanently displayed as the Henry and Sula Walton Collection and is supported by a large bequest for future acquisitions. Even after retiring Henry continued to collect and to advise a wide range of institutions at home and abroad on their acquisition policy, as well as securing commissions for promising artists.

A notable feature of Henry's activities was how, for so many of his friends, he would rapidly come to occupy a guiding, almost charismatic, role in their lives which ceased only with the onset of his terminal illness (due to renal carcinoma), a few months before he died peacefully in his home on 13 July 2012. His many acquaintances will be much saddened, and his many friends deeply grieved, by the passing of this remarkable man