Lives of the fellows

Gordon Hamilton Fairley

b.20 April 1930 d.23 October 1975
BM BCh Oxon(1954) DM(1961) MRCP(1958) FRCP(1968)

Gordon Hamilton Fairley was the younger son of Sir Neil Hamilton Fairley (q.v.) and his second wife Mary Evelyn Greaves. His father was a member of a distinguished Melbourne medical family.

He was educated at Geelong Church of England Grammar School in Australia during the war. At its close he came to England and after Marlborough College and Magdalen College, Oxford, he entered St. Bartholomew’s Hospital as a clinical student in 1951. On qualification in 1954 he served in house appointments at his own hospital, at the Brompton Hospital and at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School before returning to St. Bartholomew’s as a registrar and later a senior registrar.

He had already shown that his interests lay in the study of malignant disease and, in particular, in the immunology of cancer. The subject of his DM thesis was the immune mechanisms in chronic lymphatic leukaemia and other reticuloses. In 1965 he was appointed to the staff of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and two years later to that of the Royal Marsden Hospital. In 1969 he delivered the Goulstonian Lecture before the Royal College of Physicians on Immunity to Malignant Disease in Man.

In 1970 the Imperial Cancer Research Fund established a research unit in medical oncology at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and Hamilton Fairley was appointed its director; a year later the Fund endowed a chair in Medical Oncology to be held at the hospital and he became the first professor in this specialty in the United Kingdom. His ability, his drive and his personality made the unit an immediate success. He rapidly acquired international status in his chosen field. He was a brilliant lecturer, capable of holding any audience spellbound, and his services were in demand in Australia, the United States and in all the European countries. Many young men and women were anxious to work under his direction and his advice was sought by individuals, official bodies and governments. Although so much concerned in academic research, he had a genius for clinical medicine and never lost sight of the patient as the raison d'etre for all his work.

Gordon Hamilton Fairley was a man of uncommon grace and charm, an accomplished pianist and one whose abiding interest lay in his gifted and attractive family. The tragedy of his horrifying death at the age of 45, from the explosion of a terrorist bomb thought to be destined for his next-door neighbour, will remain with all who knew him.

In 1952 he married Daphne Hillier-Holt by whom he had a son and three daughters.

Sir Ronald Bodley Scott

[, 1975, 4, 290, 352, 414, 470, 657; Lancet, 1975, 2, 880; Times, 24, 25 & 31 Oct 1975; Guardian, 24 & 28 Oct 1975]

(Volume VI, page 215)

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