John Lewis Adams, son of Robert Tasman Adams, barrister and solicitor, and Hilda Mary (nee Cooper), registered nurse and hospital proprietor, was born at home in Pahiatua. He had four siblings.
He married Gwendoline Lucy Harkness, a nurse, and they had three children; John Dickson Adams, consultant dermatologist, Stephen Vaughan Adams, management consultant and Justin Mary McCarthy, sheep and cattle farmer. Gwendoline died in 1942. In 1988 he married Ann Duchesne Satherley, a nurse in a religious order.
He was educated at Pahiatua District High School and Wellington College, Victoria University College and Otago University, winning many scholarships and prizes.
John Adams' skills were in general medicine. He paid extraordinary attention to detail. He was in general practice in Miramar from 1948 to 1952 and was private consulting physician from 1951 to 1991 and visiting physician from 1949 to 1982 at Wellington Hospital.
He served on many committees in the 1950s and 1960s. For the RACP he was secretary on the Medical Standards Committee from 1957 to 1958, honorary treasurer on the Dominion Committee from 1962 to 1966 and financial advisor on the Dominion Committee from 1967 to 1968. For the BMA he was a member from 1963 to 1966 and chairman of the Wellington Ethical Committee from 1967 to 1968. For the Health Department he was a member of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee from 1956 to 1983 and member of the Poisons Committee from 1951 to 1969.
He published a number of papers in medical journals, largely on clinical subjects and reflecting his observational skills.
He had many interests outside medicine. He had a long involvement, from 1953 to 2009, with the Masonic Lodge (Westminister No 308) and was a member of Karori Golf Club. He was an active anglican, being vestryman at St Aidan’s, Miramar from 1953 to 1954 and at St Mary the Virgin, Karori from 1960 to 1968. He was active in sports at university playing rugby for Otago University A team in 1937 and 1938 and won University Blues for athletics between 1937 and 1940 and held the discus record for New Zealand Universities in 1939.
John served in the armed services in New Caledonia, British Solomon Islands and Italy in WWII between 1942 and 1946. He retired in 1958 with the rank of major.
John had wide interests and passionate concerns. He held very strong moral, ethical and religious views and was never afraid to express them. His opinions on abortion, contraception, sterilisation and gay rights were conservative. He was outspoken on matters affecting his own professional life. Many of those subjects are covered in his Autobiography of a Physician (published in 2008) sometimes with withering honesty and frankness according to his lights.
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