Glasgow - Stobhill General Hospital

Glasgow Biochemists' Club


In 1922 Dr Alex Glen, a young physician recently returned from the 1914-18 war, was appointed to the Victoria Infirmary. He showed a particular interest in metabolic diseases and set up a small laboratory in a side room of ward 15 to undertake simple chemical analysis of blood and urine specimens. The Board of Governors of the Victoria Infirmary asked Glen to set up a Laboratory. He replied that this required more knowledge of chemistry than he had and so, in 1935, the Board appointed Dr James C Eaton as its first medical biochemist. (ref: 160)

In his book "One man's medicine", Morris Gibson describes working as a senior medical student in 1939 in Glen's wards. Glen, he writes, was one of the "wonderful teachers who were also warm human beings, and from these we learned by example. - - -He was a soft spoken dedicated scholar - - -his breadth of knowledge far transcended the bounds of clinical medicine, and he admonished us young people to retain inquiring minds for the rest of our lives: the open mind, he said, is an essential for any good doctor." Gibson gives an account of the successful treatment of a child with meningitis with a new drug called sulphonamide which he been given to experiment with in hopeless cases. When one of Glen's colleagues described the results as a miracle, Glen said "Perhaps you haven't seen a miracle, but you have seen one thing today - the passing of the future of medicine from us physicians to the biochemists". (ref: 150) Alex Glen's son, Alastair, said that this view of his father's had an influence on his own choice of career (see below). (ref: 160)

Eaton had graduated 1st class honours in Chemistry, Glasgow, 1927. He was one of the first workers in radiotherapy, having worked part time producing radon needles while at University with the Glasgow and West of Scotland Radium Committee. He worked in the production of dyes with the British Dyestuffs Industries in Manchester. His association with the medical uses of radium fostered in him a desire to practice medicine and he returned to Glasgow to study medicine in 1929, graduating MB, ChB in 1935. (ref: 114)

Eaton's Laboratory was housed in two rooms in the basement of the old Pathology building. In his 12 years at the Victoria Infirmary, Eaton developed the department into one of the leading and most comprehensive diagnostic laboratories in Glasgow. He assisted in diabetic and endocrine clinics. Eaton was appointed as Consultant at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1947 and he died just before his planned retiral date in 1966 (ref: 16, 177)

In 1938 Andrew P Kenny, who had been a technician in Glasgow Royal Infirmary from 1930 to ca. 1937 and who had transferred with DB Colquhoun to join Forbes Robertson at Gartnavel Royal Hospital at the Neuro-Psychiatric Research Institute in Shelly Road, was appointed as technician. Eaton encourage Kenny to take evening classes in the old Glasgow Technical College in Chemistry, Physics and Maths prior to taking his Associateship of the Institute of Chemistry in 1938. Kenny was directed by the Ministry of Supply to work on the manufacture of explosives in the Nobel Division of I.C.I. during World War II first in Ayrshire and then at Bishopton. He was appointed as Assistant Biochemist in 1944, took the London University Inter BSc examination ca. 1946 and the special BSc in Chemistry and Physiology in 1948. He did a PhD on a comparison of chemical and biological assays of urine steroids in 1954 to 1957 (Professor JN Davidson was his supervisor). He worked in the Department at the Victoria Infirmary until he retired as Head of Department in 1980. (ref: 5,11)

Kenny took charge of the laboratory from the time of Eaton's appointment as Consultant at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1947 until Ian A Anderson was appointed as Consultant in 1948.

Anderson was an honours graduate of Aberdeen University, where he was a Lecturer in Sandy Lyall's Department of Clinical Chemistry (1946-48). He had held a Rockefeller travelling fellowship (1934 - 35) and a Beit Memorial Fellowship (1937 - 39). He was joint author with Sir Stanley Davidson of "Textbook of Dietetics", first published in 1940. He had served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and became an advisor in nutrition to the Army Medical Department Director of Hygiene during World War II. Whereas Eaton has been described as a scientist with an interest in medicine, Anderson was a physician with an interest in clinical biochemistry. His special interests were endocrinology and metabolic bone disease. (ref: 116)

The second world war, especially the campaigns in the desert and the jungles of the far East, had demonstrated the importance of salt and water balance for survival. This knowledge, together with the experience with fluid replacement in the treatment of shock on the battle field, was applied to the use of intravenous fluids for the pre and post-operative management of hospital surgical patients. The combination of the clinically oriented Anderson and the analytical and biochemical experience of AP Kenny led to a very happy and productive combination of skills which became the advised structure for Biochemistry Departments. (ref: 5,16)

In 1952 Ian A Anderson was a member of a four man delegation from Scotland who attended the meeting at Market Drayton on 24th May which led to the formation of the Association of Clinical Biochemists in 1953. (James C Eaton, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Maurice Jowett, Western Infirmary and J Wilson Chambers, Stobhill General Hospital, were the others. Eaton, Jowett and CP Stewart, from Edinburgh, were members of the interim committee which was set up at Market Drayton.) A Glasgow Area Hospital Biochemists' Club had been formed on the 4th October 1949 and this was the first such group to be formed in the U.K. When the fourth meeting of this Club was held in 1950, the travelling instructions indicated the "Victoria Infirmary may be reached by No. 24 tram to Langside terminus or Nos. 5 or 11 tram to Battlefield". (The 1951 membership list of the Club included Miss AM Aitken of the Victoria Infirmary.)

In 1950 Archie Jamieson (Principal Grade (1968-73) and Top Grade Biochemist (1973-79) at Stobhill Hospital) was appointed as Biochemist. He had graduated at Glasgow University in Inorganic Chemistry in 1937 and completed teacher training at Jordonhill College in 1938. His career until 1950 included university research, teaching in Barrhead, explosives research at Bishopton (during World War II), quality control of alloy steels at Beardmores Parkhead Forge and the manufacture of paints with high electrical resistance, ropes for the Queen Mary and waterproof coats for sheep. He was offered a salary of 400 per annum, which he accepted despite earning 650 as Assistant Chief Chemist in the Gourock Rope Works at Port Glasgow as the latter job gave little job satisfaction. (Kenny, who he had met two years earlier and who had shown him round the Victoria Infirmary Laboratory at that time, was earning 650 per annum and thought that Jamieson was mad to accept such a drop in salary.) (ref: 31)

In 1950 the staff comprised IA Anderson (who worked exclusively on his own research work), Kenny, Jamieson and 3 technicians and the work load was approximately 6,000 tests per annum. When the laboratory was taken into the N.H.S. in 1953, Kenny and Jamieson were graded as Principal and Senior Biochemist respectively. Jamieson was appointed at Stobhill Hospital in 1968 and retired in 1979. (ref: 31)

Ian Hendry was appointed to the Victoria Infirmary when he graduated from Glasgow University in 1953. In 1959, Hendry took up an appointment as Senior Biochemist at Bangour General Hospital where he was appointed as Principal Biochemist in 1964. (Ref: 50)

During the 1950s the department expanded until it occupied the whole ground floor of the old Pathology building and part of the mortuary block. In 1957 all laboratory specialities were moved into temporary accommodation in converted wards at Mearnskirk Hospital while the new (present) laboratory block was built on the site of the old department. (ref: 16)

Cardiac surgery was developed by Mr RS Barclay and colleagues at Mearnskirk and a satellite laboratory was set up there, as the Biochemistry Department was heavily involved in the preliminary assessment and subsequently monitoring of these patients. (ref: 16)

Anne M Kelly was appointed in 1959. She recalled that, on her first day, Ian Anderson gave her a detailed introduction to the 17 keto-steroid method. She was later appointed to the Western Infirmary and to the Royal Maternity Hospital in 1971. She was appointed as Top Grade Biochemistry in Paisley in 1977, retired in 1997 and became Dr Bell when she married in 1999.

In 1959 Robert W Logan was appointed as S.H.O. and was the first medical trainee in the department, working under IA Anderson. He was appointed as Registrar in 1961, gaining clinical experience in endocrinology and malabsorptive disorders. Logan initiated and undertook all routine steroid measurements in the Victoria Infirmary and undertook the first fluorimetric assay for plasma cortisol in the West of Scotland. He was appointed as Senior Registrar at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1964 and Consultant Biochemist in Dumfries in 1966 prior to taking up his appointment as Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant at the Glasgow Royal Hospital for Sick Children in 1967. (ref: 82)

In 1965 Adam Fleck was appointed as Senior Lecturer prior to taking up his appointment as Consultant in Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1966. (ref: 63)

In 1964-65 AP Kenny spent a year as visiting World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) Professor in Baroda, Gujarat, India to reorganise the clinical chemistry services there. (ref: 5)

A Radioimmunoassay laboratory was commissioned in 1965. (ref: 16)

In 1966 Alastair CA Glen was appointed as Senior Registrar, having spent six months with Hamish Munro in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston after leaving the Glasgow Western Infirmary. Alastair was the son of Alexander Glen who was appointed as Physician in the Victoria Infirmary in 1922 and who had recommended the appointment of the first medical biochemist (JC Eaton) in 1935. ACA Glen was appointed as Consultant ca. 1970 and as Head of Department in 1980. He retired in 2001. (ref: 11)

Other biochemists who were at the Victoria Infirmary in the 1960s were Joyce I Ballinger who became Robertson in 1967 and who left the ACB in 1971, and Evelyn M Booth.

Joy I Mowat, later Blair, who had been a Senior Biochemist at The West of Scotland Regional Steroid Laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (1966 to 1968) was appointed in 1968 and took up a post in the Glasgow Royal Hospital for Sick Children in 1972 from where she retired in 1990.

In 1968 the department became the centre, first for the West of Scotland and later for the whole of Scotland, of a quality assessment scheme. The techniques of the use of bovine plasma as a quality control were developed at the Victoria Infirmary and later, with the help of John Watt of the Protein Fractionation Unit in Liberton, Edinburgh, a system for bulk production was established. As a result of his work in this field, Kenny was in demand by the W.H.O. as a visitor and advisor particularly in India, Indonesia and South East Asia and quality assurance specimens continue to be dispatched regularly to laboratories in these countries with the joint support of the W.H.O. and the S.H.H.D. ref: 5,16)

IA Anderson retired to Aberdeen in 1970 and died in 1983.

Kenny, who had been appointed Top Grade Biochemist in 1966, was appointed as Head of Department in succession to Anderson in 1970.

From 1971 to 1973 the department developed report formats for computer generated cumulative reports in collaboration with the National Engineering Laboratory in East Kilbride and using spare computing time on the main-frame computer in East Kilbride. In 1973 the first computer was installed in the department. This was an IBM 1130 with 8k of core. Initially it handled the data off-line from the SMA 6/60. By 1976 it was used to produce cumulative reports for 87% of all requests. It was replaced in 1978 by a PDP 11/34 (with 64k of core). (ref: 5,17)
In April 1971 a grade II Physics Technician was appointed at the Victoria Infirmary to maintain the laboratory equipment. This pilot experiment was very successful and it was recommended that additional personnel be recruited for selected laboratories in the Region. In 1973 there were discussions between representatives of the West of Scotland Consultant Biochemists Committee, the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering and Technicon concerning maintenance contracts. Technicon were charging between 7.5 and 9% of the purchase price for maintenance contracts. The contract for the Western Regional Hospital Board for maintaining AA I and AA II equipment for the year 1973/74 was 30,675.
For the following year the quote, which was to include SMA equipment which up to then had not been included, was between 89,900 and 100,500; the cost of the contract varied depending on whether the laboratory concerned used reagents supplied by Technicon or by some other (generally much cheaper) supplier. An in-house maintenance scheme was established in April 1976 and, in its first six years, this scheme saved the West of Scotland Boards an average of 82,500 per annum. (ref: 25,26)

A laboratory was set up to provide antenatal, perinatal and paediatric services at the Rutherglen Maternity Hospital when it opened in 1978 and Donald McDonald was appointed as Senior Biochemist there in 1988. (ref: 16)

Michael G McConway, from the Gynaecology Research Laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, was appointed in 1978. He was the winner of the 1982 John King Award. He was appointed Senior Biochemist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary Endocrinology Unit in 1983.

J Derek White, Basic Grade Biochemist, was appointed as Senior Biochemist ca. 1979 and Principal Biochemist ca. 1980.

Alison M Blake was appointed as a Basic Grade biochemist in 1979 and as Senior Biochemist in the mid-1980s. She retired in 2000 and died in 2022.

Catrinona W McGregor became a member of the ACB in 1984 and Alan Gaw in 1986.

Kenny was elected as an Emeritus Member of the A.C.B., on a recommendation from the Scottish Regional Committee, prior to his retiral in 1980. Kenny spent two years as a locum Top Grade Biochemist in the Fife Area Laboratory at Kirkcaldy and died in 1983. (ref: 5)

Alan M Reid was the winner of the 1984 John King Award.

Alastair CA Glen was appointed as Head of Department on Kenny's retiral in 1980. R Helen Eaton (daughter of JC Eaton), who had been a Principal Biochemist in the department, was appointed as Top Grade Biochemist in 1980 and retired in 2002.

Nigel Capps, who was a Registrar in the department in the 1980s, was appointed as Senior Registrar in Exeter in 1985 and as Consultant Chemical pathologist for Shropshire, based at the Princess Royal Hospital, Telford in 1989.

Kevin A Deans was the winner of the 2002 John King Award with a paper on "Continuous Glucose Monitoring". In 2010 Deans was appointed as Consultant at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Glasgow - Western Infirmary & Gartnavel General Hospital

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Last updated August 2022