Alton, Bryan Gerard (1919–91), physician, politician and goldsmith, was born in Dublin on 5 June 1919, the only child of Norman Bindon Alton, bank inspector, and his wife, Mary Frances (née Hayes). The family lived at 119 Morehampton Road until his father died in 1925. Bryan and his mother then lived with her parents, latterly at 249 North Circular Road. He was educated at St Mary's College, Rathmines, and Castleknock College, Dublin (1931–6), then graduated Bachelor of Medicine (MB) (1942), Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in pathology (1943), and Doctor of Medicine (MD) (1946) from University College Dublin (UCD), where he won gold medals in medicine, surgery and obstetrics.
Alton was appointed house physician at the Mater Hospital in 1941 and in 1943 became assistant physician. After taking up a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in 1947 based at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, he returned the following year to the Mater Hospital as physician. Although he was interested in cardiology and respiratory medicine, he finally specialised in gastroenterology and introduced gastricbiopsy and later endoscopy techniques to Ireland. He was later appointed consultant physician to St Luke's Hospital and the James Connolly Memorial Hospital and served on the board of both institutions. In 1964 he travelled to Houston, Texas, on a World Health Organisation (WHO) fellowship. A specialist lecturer in medicine and physiology at UCD, Alton was a member of the college's governing body (1962–73) and a member of the senate of the National University of Ireland (NUI) (1963–73). In 1965 he was elected to the seanad, where he sat as an independent until 1973. To secure more funding for the hospital sector, he maintained close links with the dominant political party, Fianna Fáil. He numbered Fianna Fáil luminaries such as Éamon de Valera (qv), Charles Haughey (qv) and Brian Lenihan (qv) among his patients.
In 1957 Alton co-founded the highly successful Mater Hospital pools. He was later instrumental in the establishment of the new Mater Hospital, and with Joe O'Hanlon raised £1 million to start the Mater College of Post-Graduate Education and Research. He was both coordinator of the Mater Foundation and chairman of the Mater Hospital Medical Council (1971–84), and was appointed a life member of the Mater Hospital's board of management.
Having been elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (FRCPI) (1947), Alton later served the college as censor, vice-president, president (1974–6), director of education (1977–80) and treasurer (1984–91). As chairman of the joint committee of higher medical training he played a large part in establishing the Irish committee on higher medical training. His standing within the medical community was such that he served as chairman of the Medical Council and the Postgraduate Medical and Dental Board (1980–90), as well as being a board member of St Anne's Hospital, St Vincent's Hospital, Fairview, the Central Remedial Clinic, and the James Connolly Memorial Hospital. In addition to this he was a member of Comhairle na nOspidéal, a director of Ansbacher Bank, a board member of Voluntary Health Insurance (VHI) and a fellow of the American, London and Edinburgh colleges of physicians. His contribution to medicine was to have been recognised in April 1991 with the conferring of an honorary Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) degree by the NUI.
Outside of medicine Alton was an authority on graphics, ceramics, silver and paintings, and was twice master warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company of Dublin (1979 and 1987). He was president of the Castleknock Past Pupils Union (1968–9) and a member of the board of guardians of the National Gallery of Ireland (NGI).
Alton was fondly remembered as the cigar-smoking doctor who travelled about in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. He married (12 April 1950) Dr Winifred Mary Tempany and had four sons and three daughters; they lived at 19 Temple Gardens, Rathmines. Alton died on 18 January 1991 at the Mater Hospital, Dublin.