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Tribute to Philip K Morgan

From Patrick

On each of our birthdays, our father was fond of quoting the following poem:

Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me
A little lad, just back from school
The boy I used to be.
And then he smiles so wistfully as he creeps within
I wonder if he hopes to see the man I might have been.

The sentiment is one that perhaps underlies his constant strive to improve. Those of us reflecting on his life's achievements would say that he became everything any man could be.

I had the privilege to not only be his son, but also to follow in his mighty footsteps at work. His working life began at Chatham Dockyard in 1942 as an engine fitter apprentice where he worked under the auspicious eye of his father until 1947. With help from his brother David, he eventually found his life's vocation working at The Royal Free and Brompton Hospitals in London as a laboratory technician. The early 1950's saw tremendous advances in the understanding and quantifying of pulmonary disease. During this time he developed several instruments that caught the attention of a Dutch company who hoped to sell similar products throughout the new National Health Service. He was persuaded to leave his laboratory work and become Director of Goddard Mijnhardt based in Rochester.

It was during his time selling Dutch instrumentation that he fist travelled to the United States where he helped promote sales and train technicians in what was, to many, completely new science. In the late 1950's he was approached by the Medical Research Council to help produce an instrument for the measurement of diffusing capacity. It was particularly aimed to help in the diagnosis of pneumoconiosis commonly found among coal miners.

In 1960 he founded P.K. Morgan Ltd. based on a contract to supply Single Breath Diffusion instruments to the National Health. My father was the consummate salesman, his charm and intelligence were only surpassed by his integrity. In the early years running his own company, he broadened the product range by importing new technology from abroad. Some of the products his company pioneered in Britain included the first automated blood gas analyser, the first automated blood pressure system, intra-aortic balloon pumps, heart valves, blood coagulation timers and many more.

He ran the company based on his strong philanthropic principals, treating all employees like family and providing a secure and encouraging environment to create. The resulting pulmonary function products produced in Chatham and Rainham were highly respected for their scientific accuracy and longevity and indeed many are still in use today. Not all his efforts to innovate were successful, however he was invariably way ahead of his time. He tried to introduce micro-wave ovens to Britain but was told they would never be accepted! He invested considerable development effort in a basal body temperature device to help couples with fertility. He even saw the possibilities of skateboards and imported some of the first seen in England. Although each of these endeavours failed at the time, today they are seen everywhere.

At one point he employed a Scottish engineer who was working with a small group of software developers from Redmond, Washington. He urged my father to embrace the new technology and even invest in an early share offering. His crack team of electronic engineers at the time told him the software was bug ridden and worthless and not to waste his time or money. The company in Redmond was Microsoft! Pause while the family considers what original shares might be worth today!

At its height, P.K. Morgan products were being exported all over the world and my father travelled far and wide for many weeks at a time. He would return with fantastic stories of his adventures and exotic gifts for his children. He helped start subsidiary businesses in Australia, Belgium, Holland, India, Italy, Singapore and The United States.

Wherever he travelled, he intoxicated people with his personality and brought with him an understanding whatever their religion or ethnic background. He had the rare ability of being able to greet people in their own language and provide a personal touch that made all who encountered him feel very special. I think this was perhaps his greatest gift; all who met my father felt they were particularly important to him.

Travelling with "P.K." was always an adventure. Tales of his exploits became evermore colourful when illuminated by the master raconteur! During one trip we went to Dubai to exhibit at an international symposium, but an untimely demise of a local sheikh closed down all activity for two days of mourning. There we were flopped by the pool of our hotel when we were supposed to be working. As he fell asleep in the sun with his mouth agape, I craftily took a photo of him using his own camera. I thought this would cause him some amusement when he eventually surveyed his pictures. Some weeks passed back in England and one day my own film of the trip arrived. There among the prints was a picture of me fast asleep on a lounge with mouth wide open!

His company was acquired in 1995. The future promised for his employees was never achieved to his satisfaction and perhaps this was the source of his greatest disappointment. Fortunately, only a few weeks ago he sat in the offices of my company in America. He was treated with great reverence and shown all the new pulmonary function development work being undertaken. He spent hours working with the products, asking questions and entertaining the staff. The "old warrior" was back! His eyes shone with a passion to create and by the end of his time with us he was looking where to locate his desk!

In 1942 my grandfather, Len Morgan wrote the following quote from "The Builders" by Henry Van Dyke in our father's journal:

Four things a man must learn to do if he would make his record true:

To think without confusion clearly
To love his fellow man sincerely
To act from honest motives purely
To trust in God and heaven securely

My father indeed made his record true.

 

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