Lives of the fellows

George William Marshall Findlay

b.6 January 1893 d.14 March 1952
OBE(1919) CBE(1935) MB ChB Edin(1915) MD Edin(1920) DSc Edin(1922) MRCP(1941) FRCP(1948)

Microscopy, research into virus diseases, biochemistry and medical editorship all came easily within Findlay’s wide general knowledge. He was the son of Dr George Findlay, a general practitioner, of Brailes in Warwickshire, and his wife, the former Isabella Shaw Sharp. He had already begun his medical studies at Edinburgh University, which he entered from Dean Close School, Cheltenham, when the outbreak of World War I led him to volunteer as a medical aide in the Belgian Army. For his services he was decorated in 1914 with the Médaille du Roi Albert. On his recall to complete his studies he graduated with honours in 1915 and immediately joined the Naval Medical Service, gaining the award of the O.B.E.

Lister, Carnegie, and Freeland Barbour fellowships led to his appointment as assistant pathologist to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, to his graduation as M.D. with gold medal, to his D.Sc., and to his Membership of the College. His ability in research was then shown at the laboratories of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund; in 1924 he demonstrated the toxic action of manganese on the liver (Brit. J. exp. Path., 1924, 5, 92-9), and in 1928 the development of skin cancer by ultra-violet rays (Lancet, 1928, 2, 1070-73).

But the most distinguished part of his career was to come after 1929 when he started his investigations into the common virus diseases in the tropics and experimented with yellow fever vaccine at the Wellcome Bureau of Scientific Research and in the field in Gambia, work which gained him promotion to the C.B.E. During this period he published, with collaborators, several papers on Rift Valley fever and his own Recent advances in chemotherapy (1930; 2nd ed. 1939; 3rd ed. 1950-54. 3 vols, the third by F.C.O. Valentine and R. A. Shooter).

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Findlay joined the Home Guard, but was brought into the R.A.M.C, to investigate the yellow fever in the Sudan (Ann. trop. Med. Parasitol., 1941,35,59-65,121-39,149-68), and trench fever in Tunis. By 1942 he was a brigadier in the West African Command. In 1947 he became editor of Abstracts of World Medicine and Abstracts of World Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, but never lost his interest in research, continuing his work on Rift Valley fever, the Coxackie virus and poliomyelitis.

Even then he had spare time; in 1950 he was elected president of the Royal Microscopical Society, having been honorary editor of its Journal since 1927. His hobby was medical history. There were two daughters of his marriage in 1930 to Margaret, daughter of the Rev. Leonard Williams, Sidmouth, Devon.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1952, 1, 658-60 (p), 715, 769-70, 822; J.Path.Bact., 1953, 65, 621-5 (p); J. roy. micr. Soc., 1952, 67, 123-6 (p), bibl.; Lancet, 1952, 1, 675-6 (p), 722; Times, 19 Mar. 1952.]

(Volume V, page 129)

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