Lives of the fellows

Edmund Stephen Garnett

b.22 April 1933 d.14 September 1994
MB BS Lond(1957) MRCP Edin(1960) MRCP(1962) FRCP(1978) FRCPC

Edmund Stephen Garnett was a pioneer in nuclear medicine - a man with ambition and vision, combined with a remarkable knowledge and appreciation of the practicalities of that vision. He was born in the Lake District where his father was a master blacksmith, from whom Steve must have derived his practical skills in the design and construction of equipment, the reconstruction and repair of his vintage Rolls Royce cars and his love of horses. He was educated at Cowley School, St Helens, Lancashire, and went on to St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School after winning a scholarship in natural sciences. He later won prizes in anatomy and biochemistry. He graduated in 1957 and, after house jobs at the Lister Hospital in Hitchin, went on to the Charing Cross Hospital as a medical registrar at the department of medicine, later becoming a senior registrar in the isotope department. It was during this time he developed his interest in the use of isotopes for the study of the pathophysiology of disease, particularly thyroid function, sodium distribution and excretion, and renal function.

In 1966 he was appointed consultant physician in nuclear medicine and director of the Wessex regional department of nuclear medicine in Southampton. He further developed and expanded his research interests, studying the mechanisms of sodium retention as a consequence of starvation in the treatment of obesity (in collaboration with his future wife Jacqueline Ford) and, in association with Amersham, the development of pyrogen-free 131-Indium for liver scanning. Much of his research was presented to meetings of the Medical Research Society and was published in Clinical Science.

In 1969 he joined the newly established faculty of health sciences at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, as co-ordinator of the nuclear medicine programmes of the five associated teaching hospitals and professor of nuclear medicine and radiology.

McMaster University had an established reputation in nuclear physics, and was unique in having a 5-MW nuclear reactor and a Tandem Van den Graaf linear accelerator on the campus, adjacent to the newly constructed faculty of health sciences building. In the article he wrote on nuclear medicine for the July 1972 issue of the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians [Vol.6, No.4, pgs 396-398] devoted to developments at McMaster he foresaw the potential of these facilities for the production and application of short half-life isotopes.

He was gifted in developing a team of varied colleagues whose roles in their collaborative research he respected and acknowledged and whose potential he encouraged. He helped design and construct the first scanner for positron emission tomography (PET scanner) to utilize the isotopes his group had prepared for studying glucose and dopamine metabolism in Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. Later, with support of research funds, he and his team were able to acquire a commercial PET scanner and an adjacent cyclotron, and became the first nuclear medicine centre in Canada able to study both the heart and the brain. He was able to combine research into the pathophysiology of disease and the application of isotopes in imaging techniques of organs and the definition of defective perfusion.

Those of us who left the UK to join the faculty of health sciences at McMaster at about the same time were in awe of the fact that he purchased and cleared twenty five acres of bush, building a house, garage and stables to accommodate his Rolls Royce cars, not all of which were functional, and horses for his family and himself to enjoy. He married his wife Jacqueline in 1968 and they had one daughter and a son. His death after being thrown from the horse he loved to ride on his estate tragically shortened the life that had so much yet to offer to his beloved family, colleagues and research.

M C Brain

(Volume X, page 157)

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