Lives of the fellows

Charles Horace Gray

b.30 June 1911 d.15 August 1997
Hon BSc Lond (1932) MRCS LRCP(1936) MB BS(1937) MSc(1938) MD(1950) DSc(1951) MRCP(1952) FRCP(1958) FRCPath(1963) FRCS

Charles Gray's career as a chemical pathologist spanned a period during which his chosen discipline developed from its early days of laborious manual analyses, the results of which must frequently have been available too late to be of material benefit to patients, to become a scientifically based, technology-dependent service providing data essential to all areas of clinical practice. His was one of the first laboratories to use automated analyzers and to introduce a computer for data handling.

His first degree was in chemistry, from Imperial College, London. He then went to University College, initially as demonstrator in biochemistry, and later as a lecturer in physiology, pursuing research into bile pigments while at the same time studying medicine, in which he qualified in 1936. At various times while at UCL he also held the Bayliss-Starling and Graham scholarships.

In 1938, the year of his marriage to his beloved Jessie, he was appointed lecturer in biochemistry at King’s College Hospital Medical School, London. His war service was as pathologist in charge of sector nine biochemical laboratory in the emergency medical services and, in 1948, he was appointed to a personal chair in chemical pathology in the University of London, which he held at King’s, remaining in this post, with an honorary consultant appointment to the hospital, until his retirement in 1976. He then became a visiting professor at the Clinical Research Centre at Northwick Park until 1983, and during 1979 was acting head of the department of chemical pathology at Great Ormond Street Hospital following Barbara Clayton’s appointment to a chair in Southampton.

Charles Gray’s research interests were the metabolism and disorders of bile pigments, porphyrins and adrenal steroids - areas involving complex analyses for which his chemical training was invaluable. He established internationally respected research groups and many of his research students went on to become, like himself, leaders of their profession.

He published extensively and was the author or editor of several textbooks in addition to his numerous research papers and reviews. His books included The bile pigments, London, Methuen and Co., 1953, The bile pigments in health and disease, Springfield, Illinois, Charles C Thomas, 1961, (jointly) and Hormones in blood, London and New York, Academic Press, 1961, edited with A L Bacharach. Generations of medical students learnt their chemical pathology from Clinical chemical pathology, London, Edward Arnold and Co., first published as a monograph in 1953, written jointly with his sometime colleagues Nick Howorth and Mike Rinsler. His style of writing was spare - he shunned words that did not earn their keep - and this made his work a touch demanding to read, although accurate and unambiguous. He was a skilful editor in the same style, with a fearsome reputation for pruning verbiage and a considerable ability to extract the essentials from rambling paragraphs and render them into succinct sentences.

Charles Gray served on the council of the Royal College of Pathologists (of which he was a founder fellow), was sometime secretary of the Endocrine Society, and a member of the clinical research board of the MRC and the research committee of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Research Council. He was a founder member of the Association of Clinical Biochemists and served as their president from 1969 to 1971, being appointed an emeritus member in 1980.

Patrician in appearance and demeanour, Charles Gray often struck people at first as a remote, even aloof, person, but in truth he was far from such. He was genuinely interested in the welfare of his staff and students and would walk through his department every day, enquiring about their work and families. He was devoted to his own family and they to him.

W J Marshall
M R Norman

[Bull.Roy.Coll.Path., 1998,101,23,;, 1997,315,1470; The Independent, 26 Aug 1997]

(Volume X, page 174)

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