Dundee Royal Infirmary

Dundee Royal Infirmary Surgery Department 1960 - 67

Dundee Royal Infirmary (D.R.I.) 1960s and 70s

Peter D Griffiths was appointed as Senior Lecturer in 1966 to bring together the various parts of the clinical chemistry service to form the Combined Department of Clinical Chemistry for the Dundee General Hospitals. The following year he was appointed to the Chair of Clinical Chemistry in the University of Dundee with effect from the 1st January 1968. The department was radically reorganised with duplication between laboratories ceasing. The high volume, rapid response work was based at D.R.I. and the slower response work at Maryfield Hospital. Work on the laboratory extension, which had been suspended due to the bankruptcy of the builder, was completed. This included a student teaching laboratory and a cold room (in which Patricia A Rae - a Basic Grade Biochemist who had completed her PhD in Aberdeen and who went to the Banting Institute in Toronto, Canada in 1971 and later took a law degree - attempted the column separation of human muscle myoglobin, working in a fur coat and hat almost over the spot on which her predecessors had sunbathed in earlier years). A further extension was built ca. 1979 to provide a laboratory/office for Terry E Isles, Senior Lecturer, who had come to the department as Lecturer from Edinburgh ca. 1966

Isles had been a Lecturer in the Department of Child Life and Health, which was associated with the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. He retired 1989. (ref: 62,89)

The department was one of the first six in the U.K. to obtain a Technicon SMA 12/60 and this was replaced by a Vickers 300M when the department moved to Ninewells Hospital in 1973/74. (ref: 62)

Leon P Farrell, who had been in Fife (1959 - 1964) and St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London (1964 - 1966), was appointed as Senior Biochemist in 1966. He took up an appointment with Beckman ca. 1970 prior to being appointed as Senior Biochemist at Stracathro Hospital, Brechin, Angus, in 1971. He was appointed as Principal Biochemist in Ninewells Hospital in 1976 and retired in 1992/93. (ref: 59,87)

N Wynne Carter was appointed in 1967 as research assistant to develop laboratory computing on an Elliott 903 computer. This project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and Carter presented successful MSc and PhD theses based on this and subsequent work. Chris White, from the Dundee Medical Physics Department, was appointed to design interface control boxes to the analysers (Technicon AA I) which enabled the operator to communicate with the computer from the work bench. (This being before the advent of VDUs, communication was usually via a teletype or a paper tape reader. The interfaces were built in the department by Carter, White and Griffiths.) In 1976 a 30 character per second GPO dial-up network link was established with the laboratory in Perth Royal Infirmary. Requests and reports were transferred by the network and the specimens were delivered from Perth to Dundee by van. From the experience of on-line data acquisition gained with the Elliott 903, a system was conceived which was further developed on a CTL Modular One. This had 48K core and two 48 Mb disks. The CTL Modular One first came into routine operation in 1974 when the department moved to Ninewells Hospital. The system, then called DROS (Dundee Realtime Operating System) was subsequently transferred to several other sites in Scotland including Inverclyde Royal Hospital and the then North Ayrshire General Hospital (later called Crosshouse). The Modular One in turn was replaced by a CTL 8066 in 1983. (ref: 17,62)

Elliott Simpson was appointed as a basic grade biochemist in 1967 one week after Ian D Watson, a school-leaver, had been appointed as a technician. Watson had been shown how to do blood sugars on an AAI AutoAnalyzer and he showed Simpson. The following week a technician, Lynn Gardner from Glasgow, was appointed and Simpson showed her how to run the analyser. Simpson was appointed to Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow, in 1975. He was appointed as Principal Biochemist at Monklands Hospital, Airdrie, in 1977 and Top Grade Biochemist in 1988. He retired in 2008.

In 1968, Ian D Watson was seconded to the Obs & Gyn laboratory in Dudhope Terrace prior to Margaret Browning taking on the urine hormones assays at Maryfield Hospital (Pregnanediol, Oestriol plus other occasionals). Ether fires were a regular occurrence, the best was when the Biochemist (who later moved to Glasgow to work with Callum McNaughton) reached for some glassware above the ether still (all solvents had to be redistilled), dislodged a cylinder which fell, cracked the reaction vessel and with a quiet 'whoomf' and blue flame there was a large and expanding fire! However, thanks to practice with many minor fires (some assays required distillation of the extract, so its not really as bad as it sounds) meant the conflagration was smothered with CO2 and fire blankets. In 1969, when Browning took charge of the assays at the Maryfield Steroid lab the methods were modified to something slightly safer. After returning to the labs at the Royal Infirmary, John Craig (Chief Technician who later joined Technicon and was succeeded by Joe White) asked Watson to measure the space for the new Technicon 12/60. When it arrived it was one foot wider than had been expected and it had to sit at an angle. Watson took time out to study for the DipMTech and later returned to the Dundee Royal Infirmary to work with MJ Stewart. Watson was appointed as a Senior (1979) and Principal (1987) Biochemist in Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Top Grade Biochemist in Liverpool in 1990. He became an Honorary Member of the ACB when he retired in 2014.
Michael J Stewart, who had studied molecular biology as a PhD student and assistant lecturer under JN Davidson at Glasgow University, was appointed as Senior Biochemist in 1968 and later as Lecturer. As a trainee during his first year, he "made his mark" in the department by sawing holes in the benches to allow a more "tidy" arrangement of the wires and tubes; usually on a "saw first, ask later" basis. In 1969 he set up a drug assay service at Maryfield Hospital. In 1975 the first of a series of Drug Analysis Workshop Courses was held, under the auspices of the Association of Clinical Biochemists, at Ninewells Hospital. (This was followed by Advanced Workshops in Glasgow in 1982 and 1985.) He was appointed as Senior Lecturer in Toxicology in the department of Clinical Chemistry in Edinburgh in 1975 and Top Grade Biochemist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1979. Stewart retired in 1995 and took up a post in Johannesburg where he was appointed as Associate Professor in 2002. He finally retired in 2008 and returned to the UK to live in St Andrews.

Paul M Zarembski was appointed as Principal Biochemist in 1969. He had been one of the founder members of the M.R.C. Mineral Metabolism Unit in Leeds under Professor LN Pyrah. Zarembski served in the Polish Army during the Second World War and received a severe wound to his leg which was saved, thanks to the intervention of a German surgeon who was attached to the Russian forces. During the winter of 1942, he worked as a German POW on a farm and managed to rescue one of the farmer's two children who had fallen into a frozen lake. The farmer was so grateful that he helped Zarembski to escape back to the Allied lines. He came to the UK and trained as a wireless operator with the Free Polish Forces and this brought him near Dundee when he was stationed in Kinross in Fife. In 1946 he was granted study leave in Huddersfield and Sheffield and, following his transfer to the reserves in 1948, he took up an appointment in the Urology Research Department in Leeds General Infirmary. There he studied osteoporosis and urinary stone formation. He developed a method for oxalate analysis during his study for MSc and PhD and published widely in the field of oxalate physiology and metabolism in the 1960s. (The method of extracting the oxalate from urine used a bubble scrubber system made of glass. Zarembski had made the prototype himself and then applied his glass blowing skills to making Christmas tree decorations - which were unobtainable in the late 1940s - for the children's ward. These were silvered using ammoniacal silver nitrate reduced with glucose. As silver nitrate solutions can become unstable if left to stand, the bottle was first hit with a stick - if it didn't explode it was considered to be safe! Zarembski's earlier contact with unstable chemicals had been during vacational employment in a dye-works. While crossing between buildings on a high cat-walk, he kicked an old sack (which had contained nitrated analine) out of the way and it exploded on hitting the ground. In the same works, he was operating a large steam driven centrifuge when it and its half ton load of sacks of wet dye stuffs broke loose from its mountings and went through a wall leaving him standing with his hand still on the control valve.)

In Dundee Zarembski developed further his work in renal stone analysis using infrared spectroscopy. He was responsible for quality assurance and devised a system of circular graphs to illustrate results in terms of the number of standard deviations from the target values, introduced a ward-based quality control scheme, which was to be used for a decade after his retiral, and, for a period, used his glass working skills for sealing ampoules of sera prior to their being frozen in cardice/acetone. In 1975 he was appointed Top Grade Biochemist. After his retiral in 1979, he investigated blood lead concentrations in neonates and their mothers. This project was performed under contract for the M.R.C. and involved a large sample of the Dundee population.

Zarembski's career nearly ended with a bang. There is a reference in his paper "Lead in neonates and mothers" (Clin Chim Acta, 134 (1983) 35-49) that "an attempt to adapt a three-slot burner, designed for an instrument of another make, was unsuccessful, indeed dangerous". The attempt ended in an explosion, which threw him "smartly towards the opposite side of the room, fortunately with no serious consequences". He died in 2004. (ref: 43, 190)

Colin R Paterson was appointed as Senior Lecturer in 1969. He had worked with the late Paul Foreman in Leeds and had written a D.M. (Oxford) thesis on osteomalacia. His experience in the diagnosis and management of patients with metabolic bone disease soon led to a regular "bone clinic" which was extended to include out-patient sessions at Perth Royal Infirmary. This allowed him to undertake long term follow-up and large family studies of a variety of disorders including Paget's disease, hyperparathyroidism, osteomalacia and osteoporosis.

In 1971, following publicity of his work on vitamin D, Mrs Margaret Grant, a patient with osteogenesis imperfecta, met with Paterson and, as a result, the Brittle Bone Society came into being. The society has more than 1,000 members from all parts of the U.K. and many countries overseas and Paterson and Grant were the first Chairman and Secretary. It is thought to be the only national charity with its headquarters in Scotland and it provides practical assistance and moral support for families with osteogenesis and other bone disorders causing problems in childhood. It also raises funds for research. In 1975, Paterson became involved with the differential diagnosis of children with unexplained fractures, especially when the parents have been accused of child abuse. Apart from osteogenesis imperfecta, this diagnostic difficulty may be caused by rickets, hyper-phosphatasia, scurvy and copper deficiency. (ref: 156)

Paterson published "Metabolic Disorders of Bone" in 1975, "Essentials of Human Biochemistry" in 1983 and "Bone Disease in the Elderly" with Professor WJ McLennan in 1984. He became a co-editor, along with the late Professor George Bell and Dr D Emslie-Smith, of "A Textbook of Physiology and Biochemistry" (popularly known as "BDS") in 1975 and has co-edited the 9th, 10th and 11th editions. He later transferred to the Department of Medicine. (ref: 46) He retireed in 2002 and continued to help families affected by bone disease until he died in 2020. (ref 198)

Among the other staff who worked in D.R.I. in the late 1960s and early 1970s were Malcolm Baines, who came from Middlesborough General Hospital and who was appointed as Senior Biochemist in Liverpool ca. 1973, Pat Blair (later Mole), Hazel M Barker, Sheila Cook, John R Evans (1972 - 1976) who had been a Research Assistant with the late Professor Paul Foreman and Colin Paterson in Leeds (1965 - 1970) and who was appointed as Senior Biochemist (1976) and then Principal Biochemist (1982) at Stracathro Hospital, Brechin, Ann Flight, Elizabeth MM Hunter, David F Lucas from came from Northwick Park, Harrow in 1972, Jennifer A Nisbet, who came from Leeds and who was appointed as Senior Biochemist ca. 1969, left to take up an appointment as Principal Biochemist at St Georges Hospital, London in 1975 where she retired ca. 2001 (although she continued to work one or two days a month until 2012), Carolyn Pirrani, and Bob Willis.

Dundee Ninewells Hospital

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Last updated June 2020