1920 The Lancet  
Sir Robert Morant was more than a great public servant. He was a great patriot, a man of tireless self-sacrifice and deep enthusiasm. He was perhaps better known than many leading civil servants, but, in common with them, the full variety and the greatness of his work could only be fully known to those who worked with him. My first close personal association with him was during the fierce political controversie3 which arose over the introduction of the National Health Insurance Act. He grasped
more » ... t once the immensity of the task and the character and the extent of the organisation necessary to cope with the enormous mass of detail involved. Often in the struggle against time, as the day drew near for bringing the different services into operation, he would say, in his nervous, masterly way, that this or that could not be done. Yet it was done. It was done, because a man was in charge who had an indomitable spirit, an infectious energy, and a singular capacity for gathering around him a team of younger men whose standard was efficiency. He tolerated no inefficiency and was impatient of failure to act according to principles laid down. At the same time he was peculiarly sympathetic, often tender, to lowly members of his staff, and I have never known him fail to spare others rather than spare himself. Had his consuming conscientious energy been less active, he might perhaps be with us still. Many a time in those days we tried to forecast the order of development and the nature of a system of organised health services which the nation so sorely needed. None was more conscious than he was of the difficulties in the way and of the time that would be required in overcoming them. Yet he was not dismayed when he realised that it would be necessary to deal with a medley of interests and authorities, an antiquated and cumbrous system of the Poor-law, a lack of trained personnel in all directions, a mass of vehement, deep-rooted prejudices, and, above all, with the common habit of thought that national health services were solely associated with physic and doctoring. He loved to talk of these things and longed to have a hand in the working. Often enough he would speak despairingly when he thought of the vicissitudes of political life, of the slowness of things, and of the lack ' ! and accidents of opportunity. When he fretted thus it was only because his eager spirit was anxious to be at work. Among the many facts which the war made manifest was the urgent need of an organised system of health services, and I believe that he achieved one of the chief ambitions of his life on the day when it was my high privilege to ask him to become the first secretary of the first Ministry of Health. He saw before him an opportunity for years of useful work in the things he loved, and as a great practical idealist he rejoiced in the prospect. He never got lost in the thicket of details, of arrangements, rearrangements, adjustments, conferences, discussions, delays, and difficulties which attend the development of a progressive policy. All the time he knew where he was going, and his smallest actions were purposeful and designed to help things forward. He had the priceless gift of a wide view whilst retaining command over near and detailed work. The tragedy of his loss would appal us all were it not for the unforgettable example of his dauntless courage. Those who really knew him loved him even for his foibles. There was nothing petty about him. When a course of action had been decided upon, he pursued it; the doubts and questionings that had preceded its decision having been carefully examined and estimated were cast behind him; whether he agreed in all respects or not he went straight on when the course was decided, and that annoying habit of lesser men of bringing up again and again all sorts of pointless questionings was never his. A great reasoner himself, he respected reasoning in others, and his masterful manner did not arise from any love of domination for its own sake, but from what he felt to be the necessities of the case. He was ready enough to subordinate himself and modify his views, and he looked for a similar practice in others. The cause was the only thing that mattered to him. He was an inspirer of others, a magnificent chief of staff, greedy for labour in a worthy cause, a despiser of trifles and an affectionate and loyal friend, a tower of strength to whatever he supported, a devoted and splendid citizen. We are made poorer as a people by his loss. We are shocked by the tragedy of his death at the moment when he seemed to have the fullness of his power and opportunity. In our sorrow we can but reverence his memory and pay the tribute that he would value most in striving with all our might to imitate his great example. C. ADDISON. THE PHYSICAL CENSUS.
doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(00)55723-7 fatcat:py6eyi5w25fk3a6hamga2ysg4i