b.6 January 1882 d.21 October 1958
CBE(1947) MA Edin(1901) BSc Edin(1903) MB ChB Edin(1905) MD Edin(1907) DSc Edin(1920) MA Oxon(1912) DM Oxon(1938) *FRCP(1931)
James Gunn went to Edinburgh University from Kirkwall, Orkney, where his father, John R. Gunn, was a well-known ornithologist. By the time he was twenty-eight he had collected five degrees in arts, science and medicine, with the gold medal for his M.D. thesis, but he began his professional life as a general practitioner in the Western Islands before returning to Edinburgh to teach and research in materia medica under Professor Sir Thomas Fraser. In 1912, in which year he was awarded a Beit research fellowship, he was appointed reader in pharmacology at Oxford, where he was to remain during his active life, and five years later was elected to the chair in this new subject for which he had founded a department with lectures and practical classes. From 1937 to 1946 he was professor of therapeutics, living and working in the building later known as the Nuffield Institute for Medical Research.
Professor Gunn is probably best known as the man behind the 1948 British Pharmacopoeia, the culmination of his chairmanship of the Pharmacopoeia Commission from 1939. In 1935 he was Dohme lecturer at Johns Hopkins University, and in 1939 Oliver-Sharpey lecturer at the College, eight years after he had founded the British Pharmacological Society.
Although Gunn was a hard and conscientious worker he wrote only on a few problems which he considered important, and knew how to enjoy life easily with his books, his golf and his fishing. He was beloved by his many students and friends. He married Anne Marie Gunn and had two sons and one daughter. During his last twelve years he lived in Newbury, Berkshire, where he died at the age of seventy-six.
Richard R Trail
* He was elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature..."
[Brit.med.J., 1958, 2, 1107-08 (p); Lancet, 1958, 2, 965-6; Nature (Lond.), 1958, 182, 1411; Times, 22 Oct. 1958.]
(Volume V, page 165)
<< Back to List