Lives of the fellows

Alexander Stuart Douglas

b.2 Oct 1921 d.15 Nov 1998
BSc Glasg(1941) MB ChB(1944) MRCP(1949) FRFPS(1950) MRCP Edin(1951) MD(1957) FRCP Edin(1958) MRCP Glasg(1962) FRCP(1964) FRCP Glasg(1964) FRCPath(1970) DSc(1976) Hon FACP(1982) FRSE(1993)

With the death of Alexander Stuart Douglas Scotland lost one of its most distinguished senior scientists, a professor of medicine at Aberdeen University who achieved international recognition for his work on the mechanisms of blood coagulation, haemorrhagic disorders and thrombo-embolism.

Stuart Douglas was the younger son of Robert Douglas, medical officer of health for Moray and Nairn. Stuart was born in Aberdeen and attended Elgin Academy. He later studied medicine at Glasgow University. He never lost his love for his native country and, throughout the years, he and his family went back to spend holidays in Moray. He had a particular lifelong interest in the parish of Dallas. It was there his family’s roots went back hundreds of years. The old family home was the croft of Aultahuish a few miles from Dallas on the Knockando road.

From 1944 to 1945 he held resident house officer posts in surgery and medicine at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1945 and in his three years in the army became a major and was mentioned in despatches for his service in Palestine during the troubled years following the Second World War. From 1950 to 1957 he served with RNVR Clyde division, retiring in 1957 with the rank of lieutenant-commander.

On returning to the UK in 1948 he worked as a house physician at the Royal Northern Infirmary, Inverness. From 1949 to 1951 he was a registrar in the department of medicine, Royal Infirmary, Glasgow. From 1951 to 1953 he was a MRC research fellow at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, and at the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, London. He returned to Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1953 as lecturer in medicine and was subsequently appointed senior lecturer, until 1964, when Glasgow University appointed him as a reader. From 1970 to 1985 he was professor of medicine at Aberdeen University.

Douglas was a fellow of all the Royal Colleges of Physicians and a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. His academic attainments were recognised in USA with honorary fellowships of the College of Physicians and membership of the American Association of Physicians.

In 1965 he was seconded to the University of East Africa where he played a major part in the establishment of a new medical school in Nairobi. His contribution to East Africa was recognised with his appointment as an honorary professor of medicine at the University of East Africa.

His academic interests were in haemorrhagic disorders and thrombosis, clinical trials of anti-thrombotic therapy and seasonal variation in health and disease. At Oxford in 1951 he was heavily involved in proving that the intrinsic mechanism of blood coagulation was very powerful and identified some of its constituents and undertook the critical experiments leading eventually to identification of factor IX deficiency (Christmas disease). For thirty years he had a role in clinical trials of secondary prevention in coronary disease, starting with the MRC in 1955. For ten years he was secretary to the Medical Council’s trials of anti-coagulant therapy; for a further ten years he was the senior UK investigator in international studies of diapyridamole and aspirin. These responsibilities involved frequent visits to the United States as chairman of the mortality and morbidity committees. He also undertook the same role in clinical trials in Europe with Dutch, Belgian and French participation.

His Medical Research Council responsibilities also included membership of a series of working parties. These addressed such issues as fibrinolysis, chronic myeloid leukaemia, the treatment of haemophilia, the treatment of acute leukaemia in adults and secondary prevention after myocardial infarction.

He was a founder member and past president of the British Society for Haematology and was also an elected member of the council of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

As Regius professor of medicine at the University of Aberdeen he also contributed to offshore medicine, as director of the Institute of Environmental and Offshore Medicine and as director of Medical Services Offshore Medical Support.

Apart from his major contribution to patient care in the Royal Infirmaries of Glasgow and Aberdeen, he taught undergraduates for over fifty years. He influenced the early professional lives of several postgraduates who became distinguished senior academics in haemostasis, thrombosis and vascular medicine in UK, USA, Canada and other countries around the world.

Following his retirement he continued to enjoy the intellectual challenge of research, continuing his own research on the seasonal variation in health and disease. This research resulted in the publication of 23 papers in peer review journals and the publication of a unique textbook (Seasonal variation in health and diseases: with sections on effects of weather and temperature, T M Allan and A S Douglas, London, NY, Mansell Publications, 1994).

Stuart Douglas married his wife Christine in 1954 and they had a son and a daughter. He died in Aberdeen.

G A McDonald

[,1999,318,197;RCPath Bulletin April 1999,15-16; Bull.RCP&SGlas March 1999,35-36]

(Volume XI, page 165)

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