The Rowett Research Institute


The University Department of Clinical Chemistry was created as a result of a Court order dated 20th January, 1925. The Department was instituted in October 1926. (ref: 74)

In 1926 Alexander Lyall was appointed as Lecturer (part time) in Clinical Chemistry. His only other staff was an apprentice technician. The initial budget was 500. Lyall also became physician in charge of beds in the Royal Infirmary specialising in diabetes and endocrinology. The laboratory, initially at the old Royal Infirmary at Woolmanhill and, from 1938, in the University Medical Buildings at Foresterhill, provided a service for all the hospitals apart from the City Hospital. By the standards of pre-war days, the department at Foresterhill was quite spacious, with a general laboratory, a smaller laboratory for special work and a B.M.R. (Basal Metabolic Rate) suite plus offices and a teaching laboratory to take 20 students. By the 1950s, this was found to be inadequate and further accommodation had to be provided. (ref: 32,74)

Sandy Lyall was a small sprightly man who walked with a limp which was the result of being seriously wounded in the First World War when he served with the Gordon Highlanders. He graduated in medicine in 1923 with first class honours, the most distinguished graduate of his year. From 1924 to 1926 he trained at St Thomas's Hospital, London, under Professor Hugh MacLean, working in the Dunn Laboratory and in the wards. He graduated MD with honours and took the MRCP in 1926. In Aberdeen, over a period of 35 years, he successfully straddled his complementary interests in laboratory and clinical medicine. He started one of the first diabetic clinics in the country when insulin was still a novelty and his largest clinics on alternate Sunday mornings drew patients from all over the North East of Scotland. Throughout his professional life his work pattern did not change. After his ward round, he returned to his department where he spent the remainder of the morning with specimens from his B.M.R. patients, analysing the contents of the Douglas bags in the Haldane apparatus. With his left arm vigorously waving the manometer and the right hand operating the stop cocks, he would interview visitors, dictate letters or sort out departmental problems with staff as they queued to see him. (ref: 74)

Lyall's earliest assistant was Ian A Anderson.

Anderson was a graduate of Aberdeen University; MB ChB, 1933 and MD with honours, 1950. His exceptional ability as a house physician at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary led to a Rockefeller travelling fellowship from 1934 to 1935, when he worked at John Hopkins in Baltimore where he worked with Professor Albright. This was followed by a Beit Memorial Fellowship (1937 to 1939) in medical research.

Anderson's studies of mineral balance in metabolic bone disease resulted in several important publications. He was joint author with Sir Stanley Davidson of "Textbook of Dietetics" which was first published in 1940. He saw service with the Royal Army Medical Corps in 154 Field Ambulance in France during World War II and was evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. As an authority on dietetics, he was attached to the Ministry of Food, working with Sir Jack Drummond. This work included formulating the British Army emergency ration packs which were widely used during the invasion of Europe in the latter part of the war. He returned to a Lectureship in Clinical Chemistry at Aberdeen University after the war and took up his appointment as Consultant in Glasgow Victoria Infirmary in 1948 where he remained for the rest of his professional life. He returned to Aberdeen when he retired in 1970 and he died in 1983. (ref: 3,74,)

In 1948, Bill Bowman was appointed as Lecturer. He had been an MO in the desert with an Indian regiment during World War II. He set up and performed personally an assay for urinary steroids using metaperiodate and the Zimmermann reaction. (During his holidays, the younger members of the staff tried hard not to have to take on this task as they found it to be more of an art than a science.) Bowman retired ca. 1977 and died shortly thereafter. (ref: 83)

Later members of Lyall's staff who moved to careers in the Health Service included:-

John Green (1948 to 1952). Green became consultant in the St Mary's Hospital Group in London and, later, at Perth Royal Infirmary. (ref: 74)

W Harry Auld. Auld was appointed as Consultant Chemical Pathologist to the Chelsea and Kensington Group in 1956 and as Consultant Biochemist in Ayrshire from 1961 until his retiral in 1986. In the early days of the National Health Service, only one or two consultant vacancies came up each year in Clinical Biochemistry in the UK and, therefore, trainees faced as uncertain future. However, there were also posts for Pathologists "with an interest in Chemical Pathology/ Biochemistry". Auld, therefore, spent two years in other branches of laboratory medicine to keep both options open. (ref: 74)

George P Fraser (known as Pat or "GP" to colleagues in his early career). Fraser was an Honours Chemistry graduate of Aberdeen University and had completed his PhD on the metabolism of antimalarial drugs under Professor Kermack. He worked briefly for May and Baker in Dagenham before returning to Aberdeen to take up an appointment as Lecturer. During this time, in 1959, he took a sabbatical year in Turkey to help establish a Clinical Biochemistry Department in the major hospital in Ankara. GP Fraser was appointed as Principal Biochemist in St Bartholomew's Hospital, London in 1966, as Top Grade Biochemist in Northampton in 1969 and died in 1983. (ref: 74,75)

Peter EG Mitchell. After his initial training in Aberdeen, Mitchell took up appointments with Professor Hans Krebs, in Oxford, and Professor NF Maclagan in the Westminster Hospital, London, where he developed an interest in proteins, and returned to Aberdeen prior to his appointment as Consultant Biochemist in Dundee in 1966.

Arthur W Mollison. Mollison had graduated BSc in Pharmacy in Glasgow in 1936 and had been responsible for the laboratories while serving as Chief Pharmacist at Law Hospital in Lanarkshire from 1939 to 1945. He had returned to study medicine at Glasgow University, graduating in 1950, and was a Registrar in Stobhill General Hospital, Glasgow. Mollison was appointed as Senior Hospital Medical Officer in 1957 to initiate and develop the service in a satellite laboratory, set up under Lyall, at Woodend Hospital. He also studied hypogammaglobulinaemia during this period. His career was interrupted by illness resulting in his return to Glasgow a few years later. He was Consultant Biochemist to the Renfrewshire Hospitals from 1963 until his retiral ca. 1981 and he died in 1987. (ref: 74, 78)

Other biochemists in the 1950s included Isobel Bett, V June Curnow and Hazel Thom.

Lyall retired in 1961, looking absurdly young for his years, and he continued to serve the University as Assessor to the Court and to convene many committees. His distinguished services to medicine and to his University were recognised by the award of L.L.D. He was recalled to clinical work during the typhoid epidemic of 1964 and Iain S Ross, who was later to be appointed as Head of the Department in 1983, was his Resident at the City Hospital which had been turned over in its entirety to treating patients with typhoid. (ref: 74, 89)

On Lyall's retiral, the then Regius Professor of Pathology (John Young) and the Chairperson of the Regional Health Board (Lady May Baird, wife of Dugald Baird, Regius Professor of Obstetrics) joined forces in persuading the University that it would be in the interests of both bodies for a Chair of Chemical Pathology to be established. (ref: 32, 74)

In 1962, Samuel (Sam) C Frazer, from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, was appointed to the newly established Chair of Chemical Pathology.

Frank Albert-Recht, who had been a refugee from Czechoslovakia and who had been with Frazer in Edinburgh working mainly in the field of proteins, was appointed ca. 1962 and retired in 1988. Frazer recalled that Albert-Recht seemed to have doubts about his written English although his spoken English was always good. As a result, most of his published work was in collaboration with colleagues and, although he had loads of suitable material, he could not be persuaded to write either a PhD or MD thesis. (ref: 32)

Neil Paterson was appointed in 1966. After completing his PhD in the department, he was appointed as Senior Lecturer and later as Top Grade Biochemist and Deputy Head of Department. He died in 1999. (ref: 83, 89)

John (Ian) Leggate, who had started his career as a laboratory technician in Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital in 1951, was appointed as Lecturer in 1967. He worked on calcitonin with Sam Frazer and AD (Tony) Care of the Rowett Research Institute.

(Although the Rowett Institute's remit was for animal studies, Care and Frazer did a lot of joint work on calcitonin in the 1970s and some of Care's postgraduate students completed their PhDs in Frazer's department.) Leggate was appointed, in 1970, as Senior Biochemist at Hawkhead Hospital, Paisley where he was later Top Grade Biochemist (1975 to 1977). After a period in Kuwait, he was appointed as Top Grade Biochemist at Stobhill General Hospital, Glasgow in 1979 and he retired in 1991. He died in 2015. (ref: 32, 35)

Isobell Bett, V June Curnow and Hazel Thom were listed as being members of the ACB in 1959.

Howard GJ Worth was appointed as Lecturer in 1968. Worth worked closely with Dr M MacLeod, a Renal Physician, primarily on the application of liquid chromatographic methods to lipid analysis. He was appointed as Senior Grade Biochemist at the Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre, Birmingham, in 1971 and later as Principal Biochemist at Northwick Park Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Harrow and Top Grade Biochemist at King's Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire and retired in 2004. (ref: 88)

Other biochemists who were appointed to the department in the 1960s include Arthur Dickie, who retired in 2005, Andrew Nicol, who was later appointed as Top Grade Biochemist at Bodelwydden Hospital, Rhyll, and Ivan Reid who retired in 2000.

Arthur Walker was appointed to an assistant lectureship, having completed his PhD on acid-base metabolism at Aberdeen University. He moved south in 1966 to Charing Cross Hospital Medical School where he developed an interest in clinical enzymology. Shortly after taking up a senior post in Norwich, he was appointed as top-grade biochemist post in Guildford in 1972. (At that time, he was the youngest holder of the grade anywhere in the country). Arthur developed an interest in trace elements and was an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Surrey. He played an active part in the organisation and teaching of the department. He retired in 1999 and died in 2004. (Ref: 183)

Patricia Rae (nee Alexander) completed her PhD in the department and was appointed as a Biochemist in Dundee. In 1971 she went to the Banting Institute in Toronto, Canada and later took a degree in law and practised at the Canadian Bar. Isobell Bett, V June Curnow and Hazel Thom were listed as being members of the ACB in 1959. (ref: 83, 89)

Brian Adam was appointed a Principal Biochemist in 1976. He managed the area of clinical and forensic toxicology and established the developing methodologies in these areas during the 1980s and 90s. He was the elected to the (then) Aberdeen District Council in 1988 and served three terms as the Scottish Nationalist Party's sole representativeon the Council.He left Biochemistry in 1999 after being elected to the newly formed Scottish Parliament. He died in 2013. (ref: 197)

Other biochemists who were appointed in the 1970s include John Barclay, who worked in Dundee prior to taking up an appointment with Technicon in Paris, Callum G Fraser (Lecturer from 1970 to 1975), who was appointed as Chief Clinical Biochemist in the Flinders Medical Centre, Australia, in 1975 and as Top Grade Biochemist in Dundee in 1983, David J Usher (Lecturer ca. 1973 to 1982), who appointed as Principal Biochemist at Peel Hospital in the Borders, in 1982, Noel Walmsley (Senior Lecturer from 1972 to 1973/4) who took up an appointment in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia in 1973/4 and in the Flinders Medical Centre, Australia, in 1975, and Graham White (1973/4 to 1976) who also took up an appointment in Flinders Medical Centre, in 1976. (ref: 83)

In 1983, Sam C Frazer retired. Under the terms of his retiral, the University was obliged to leave the Chair unfilled. He moved with his wife to Australia where he died in November 2016 (ref: 199).

Iain S Ross (who was in Aberdeen when he joined the ACB in 1971), Senior Lecturer was appointed as Head of Department in 1983.

In 1986 it was decided that the Regional Laboratory at the City Hospital and the Clinical Biochemistry Section of the University Department should be amalgamated and this was completed in 1988. Ross was appointed as Head of the Combined Department and N Paterson was appointed as Deputy Head. Paterson died in service in 1999. (ref: 32,89)

In 1989 a new Consultant post was created to bring together the clinical nutrition service and Clinical Biochemistry. John (Ian) Broom was subsequently appointed to this post.

Ian Broom had been Wellcome Research Fellow at Glasgow Western Infirmary (1976 to 1979) and a Lecturer in Surgery and Clinical Biochemistry in Aberdeen from 1979. He was subsequently appointed as Professor.

In 1989 Ian Ross was appointed to a new post in overall financial charge of all Biochemistry Laboratories serving the Grampian Area.

William Simpson, Registrar (1984 to 86) and Senior Registrar (1986 to 90) at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, was appointed as Senior Registrar in 1990 and later as Consultant and Head of Service. He won the John King Award in 1992.

Heather HK Watson was a Senior Biochemist in the 1990s.

Dr Utkarsh Kulkarni was a Specialist Registrar in 2001.

Elaine M Davidson was appointed as a Grade A Trainee in 2001.

Dr J McNeilly was appointed as a Grade A Trainee in 2004.

James J Allison, from Glasgow Southern General, was appointed as Top Grade Biochemist in 2005.

Other staff in the department in 2005 included Bernard (Bernie) L Croal (consultant) and Ian H White, Duncan W S Stephen and Ian J Rothnie (biochemists).

In 2007 Jane McNeilly, Grade A Trainee, was appointed as Senior Biochemist at the Glasgow Southern General Hospital.

In 2010 Kevin Deans, from Glasgow Victoria Infirmary, was appointed as Consultant at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Helen Turner, Principal Biochemist, was presented the Royal College of Pathologist's Furness Prize for Science Communication in 2012. This was in recognition of her work in raising public awareness of the importance of contributions made to pathology specialties to patient care, including events at Satrosphere Science Centre, Aberdeen.

Emma Dewar was a Trainee Clinical Biochemist in 2016 and won the John Kind Award in the year with a paper entitled "Development of an LC-MS/MS Method for Biomarkers of Alcohol Ingestion".Emma Dewar was a Trainee Clinical Biochemist in 2016.

Saliha Haji gave a paper on a PCR method for diagnosis of ferroprotein disease at a regional meeting in 2018 as an entry for the John King Award.

In 2018 Bernie Croal was the recipient of the RCPath Flynn Lecture Award.

Karen Rankin was a Principal Biochemist in 2019.

Josh Newmark was an StR in 2019

Professor Alison Avenell, who won the 1993 John King Award, as gave the RCPath Flynn Lecture at FOCUS 2019. The title of the lecture was "Lies, damned lies and statistics in research - improving efficiency and reducing the impact of misconduct".

Aberdeen City Hospital

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Last updated October 2020