Lives of the fellows

William Brian Hanley

b.4 November 1930 d.19 September 1992
MB ChB Liverp(1954) MRCP(1959) MD(1963) FRCP(1971)

William Hanley was born in Ormskirk, Lancashire. His father, John Harold Hanley, was an electrical engineer and manufacturer of electrical apparatus. He was educated at Ormskirk Grammar School and went on to study medicine at Liverpool University, from where he graduated in 1954.

A house job in Birkenhead was followed by National Service, 1955-57, which took him to Kenya during the Mau Mau campaign. In intervals between duty as a young medical officer, he managed to see a good deal of the country and took some extremely good cine pictures of the wildlife. After demobilization, a further house job at Ormskirk County Hospital was followed by a registrar post at the Royal Infirmary Liverpool and senior registrar post at Whiston and the Royal Southern Hospitals.

Hanley gained his membership of the College in 1959 and went on to work for an MD. In this he was fortunate in receiving help and encouragement from Sir Cyril Clarke FRS, R B McConnell and D A Price Evans. It was at Sir Cyril Clarke’s suggestion that he followed on work which in 1954 had shown an association between Group O and peptic ulcer, and Clarke’s own work in 1956 which established a further association with salivary ABH secretion. He showed that healthy Group O subjects had a higher parietal and peptic mass - and so a higher acid production - than healthy Group A subjects. The cell mass was determined by pepsinogen estimation, the existing method being developed and greatly improved by Hanley. He recognized that this genetic component was not the only nor the most important determinant of ulcer production. This work undoubtedly helped him obtain a research fellowship in the department of clinical genetics at the Johns Hopkins where he worked under McCusick. His time there was productive; he was the chief author of a paper on the functional heterogeneity of pepsinogen in several species which had the distinction, unusual for a paper by a medical man, of publication in Nature, 1966, 209, pp.996-1002. He was also chief author of a paper on osteochondritis dissecans, and also part author of a long paper on genetic mucopolysaccharidoses published in Medicine, Baltimore, 1965.

On his return to England in 1966 he was appointed as consultant in general medicine to the Southport and District Hospital, a general hospital whose catchment area included his native town of Ormskirk. The Southport was a small hospital with a correspondingly small staff and for several years Hanley carried a heavy clinical load. All who worked for him in general practice and in the hospital agreed that he was a good clinician and a highly esteemed opinion.

Hanley was a robust and vigorous man who played rugby and cricket in his youth and was fortunate in retaining this energy. He made time to become the president of the Southport Medical Society and his interest in medical education is shown by the Southport postgraduate library bearing his name. He did not particularly care for committee work but was a dutiful and effective member of the management committee. He kept up his intellectual and social connections with Liverpool University and the Liverpool teaching hospitals. The esteem in which he was held is further shown by a fund which has been established in his memory; this will be used to fund an annual William Hanley lecture to be given at the Southport Postgraduate Centre.

Outside his work, William Hanley was a more than competent gardener and golfer. Indeed, he happily joined his horticultural and golfing skills when he was elected chairman of the Greens at Royal Birkdale Golf Club. His marriage to Edna Margaret Roby, an Ormskirk farmer’s daughter, was happy and fulfilling. They had three sons: one is an accountant, one in general practice in Stirling, and one a final year medical student in the USA. William Hanley was a man who flourished where his roots lay and in so doing gave notable service to his hospital and his own community. He died of a mid-brain tumour.

I Weinbren

(Volume IX, page 222)

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