Accommodation and Methods in the 1920s and 1930s

THE 1930s and 40s

In October 1929 Robert Gaddie, who had graduated that year at Edinburgh University with 1st class honours in Chemistry, was appointed as Assistant (later called Assistant Lecturer) in the Department of Therapeutics where he served for two years as assistant to CP Stewart. Much of this time was spent in research and, therefore, he was able to complete his PhD on "Fat Metabolism in Muscular Exercise" in two years. F Gowland Hopkins, from Cambridge, was the external examiner for his PhD. Gaddie transferred into academic biochemistry when he took up an appointment as Assistant Lecturer in Barger's Department in the Medical School in 1931. There he taught medical and science students.
Gaddie was awarded a Beit Memorial Fellowship for Medical Research from 1932 to 1935. This provided a "quite comfortable" 400 per annum and was combined with a part time Lectureship in general biochemistry. He conducted research along with AJ Clark, CP Stewart and P Eggleton on the metabolism of frog's heart and the chemistry of lactic acid formation and oxidation in muscle. He provided laboratory support for original work on high intestinal obstruction and determined dye in urine from patients to whom the radio-opaque dye "uroselectan" had been administered in testing for renal function. He was awarded a fourth year Beit Fellowship of 600 during which time (1935 to 1936) he went to Daly's Department of Physiology to help teach 2nd year medical students. In 1936 Gaddie left Edinburgh to go to the University of Liverpool as Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry. He returned to Clinical Chemistry in 1941 when he was appointed as Biochemist to the Birmingham General Hospital and Clinical Lecturer in the Biochemistry Department of Birmingham University, taking charge of the Department originally set up in 1927 by Garfield Thomas. Gaddie retired in Birmingham in 1972 and was retained as an advisor to the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board (as a fore-runner of the Regional Scientific Officer) until 1974. He was awarded the OBE In 1972 Gaddie moved to Cupar, Fife and, in the same year, he was elected an honorary member of the Association of Clinical Biochemists. For several years he served as honorary auditor for the Scottish Region of the A.C.B. He died in December 1984. (Ref: 1, 4, 9, 12, 51, 99)
In the early 1930s a series of meeting took place alternately in Edinburgh and Glasgow of people in the East and West of Scotland interested in the many aspects of the new science of biochemistry. From the East, members included G Barger, P Eggleton, Robert Gaddie, CP Stewart and E Stedman. From the West, members included EP Cathcart, David Cuthbertson, James C Eaton and G Wishart. (ref: 9)

In 1931 Edward B Hendry, an Edinburgh graduate, was appointed as assistant to CP Stewart. He was appointed to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1934 and returned to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in the 1940s. He took up an appointment as Lecturer at Aberdeen University (1945 to 1946) and an appointment at the University of Ibaden, Nigeria (1946 to 1951) prior to being appointed as Consultant at the Glasgow Western Infirmary in 1951. He retired there in 1973 and died in 1988. (ref: 9, 15, 24, 92, 99)

In 1946 the Clinical Chemistry laboratory was recognised as an independent department and CP Stewart was appointed as Reader. In the same year, CP Stewart took administrative control of the "Clinical Endocrinology Research Unit" (see below). (ref: 2, 51)

In 1945 David B Horn, who was to be Head of the Department of Clinical Chemistry at Edinburgh Northern and Western General Hospitals from 1966 to 1987, was employed as a laboratory technician. He left to follow a full time course of study at Heriot-Watt College in 1952. He obtained an Associateship of Heriot-Watt College in Applied Chemistry (with distinction and college medal) in 1954 and returned as a PhD student under CP Stewart. After completing his PhD in 1956, he was appointed Senior Biochemist at the Glasgow Western Infirmary. (ref: 48)

Arthur Ness was appointed as a technician on 1st September 1945. He recalled that his first job was to help salvaging chemicals and equipment from a pig sty. These had been an emergency supply to be used if the Royal Infirmary had ever been bombed. "Some of the chemicals were in paper bags and damp, whilst the visual colorimeter was rusty". He recalled taking his turn to operate the "magic lantern" for CP Stewart's lectures and knowing that he (CP) was at his last sentence as he started fumbling in his pocket for lighter and cigarettes. Ness was appointed to the Western Infirmary in Glasgow in 1951. (ref: 157)

Barbara H Billing, who was appointed Senior Lecturer (1962), Reader (1969) and later Professor in the Royal Free Hospital, London, was a Research Assistant from 1946 to 1949 while studying for her PhD under CP Stewart. She also held appointments in Highgate and Cirencester. She was elected as an Emeritus Member in 1986 and she died in 2017.

WORK LOAD IN THE 1930s AND 1940s

When the laboratory had opened in the 1920s the annual workload was around 1000 specimens. In 1948 EB Hendry published a paper in the B.M.J. expressing concern about the rising workload in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh's Clinical Chemistry Department. The numbers of analyses had reached a steady level of 12000 per annum by 1933 until 1945. However, by 1947 the number of analyses had risen to 23218 and he expressed the fear that "the doctors of the near future will be concerned solely with the problem of collecting specimens to the exclusion of all other forms of practical medicine" and that "if this 'acceleration towards infinity' continues unchecked without a simultaneous and corresponding increase in laboratory facilities and staff, then the accuracy (and hence the value) of all biochemical analyses will accelerate towards zero". In his conclusions, he bemoaned the lack of co-operation between clinical and laboratory staffs. "Active co-operation could do much to root out obsolete and unnecessary work, and in other cases investigations which are of importance could be substituted with advantage to all." During the next 15 years, the work load doubled approximately every five years.

When CP Stewart retired in 1962, the 1947 workload was being achieved by the end of the second month of the year and 30 years later, at the end of the 1970s, it was being achieved by the beginning of the second week of the year. (ref: 15, 30, 51, 80)


In 1939 CP Stewart set up one of the first blood banks in Scotland in the Department of Clinical Chemistry in the Royal Infirmary. The practice of storing blood in "Blood Banks" was first organised in Madrid in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. A Blood Transfusion Sub-Committee of the Department of Health had recommended that stores be established in the main centres. Although it published its official report a week before World War II was declared in September 1939, it had made these recommendations several months earlier. Between 1929 and 1939, a limited transfusion service had been organised (the second, after London, in the UK) with a panel of volunteer donors who were taken to the patient in the hospital or nursing home. During this first decade of the service, cross matching, using the new A B O nomenclature, was performed by the Bacteriology Department at the Royal Infirmary. Professor Ronald H Girdwood, who was later to become the Chairman of the Scottish national Blood Transfusion Association, helped set up the blood bank between his graduation in July 1939 and his first hospital post in October 1939. Part of the lab was converted as a donation centre. The junior did all the cross-matching. They used 3.8% sodium citrate as an anticoagulant, initially in milk bottles (from the Edinburgh and Dumfriesshire Dairies) which meant that the donor no longer required to brought to the recipient.

In the late summer of 1939 CP Stewart visited the Royal Northern Infirmary in Inverness to discuss this project with HJR Kirkpatrick, the Consultant Pathologist and, thus, the blood bank for the Northern Region was set up in the Pathology Department in Inverness. Similarly, the blood bank was set up in Pathology, under Professor DF Cappell, in Dundee Royal Infirmary in August 1939 (also using milk bottles and milk crates as the first emergency equipment). Cappell was one of the early workers on the problem of incompatibility of Rh factors, which had been reported in 1940. In Aberdeen the North Eastern Blood Bank was established in the Department of Bacteriology and in Glasgow the Western Blood Bank was housed in the St Andrews Ambulance Association premises and the part-time director was Noah Morris, Professor of Materia Medica. CP Stewart was appointed as part time Director of the South Eastern Region of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Association in March 1940 and resigned from that post in 1946. (ref: 29, 145)

RIE in the 1950s

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(Last revised June 2017)