Lives of the fellows

Frank Hawking

b.18 May 1905 d.4 March 1986
BA Oxon(1927) MRCS LRCP(1929) BM ChB(1930) DM(1933) MRCP(1952) FRCP(1965)

Frank Hawking was born in Beverley, Yorkshire, the son of Robert Hawking, a farmer, and his wife Mary Atkinson who was the daughter of a cabinet maker. Frank Hawking’s intellectual abilities were early recognized and he was educated at Ley’s School, Cambridge, and the University of Oxford, where he obtained his BA with first class honours in 1927. He carried out his clinical studies at Bart’s, later obtaining his DM in 1933. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1965.

After house appointments in Oxford and East Ham, his first contact with tropical medicine was in 1930 when he became the Caton Memorial research fellow at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, working on trypanosomes under the guidance of Warrington Yorke [Munk's Roll, Vol.V,p.466]. From 1933-35 he held a Radcliffe travelling fellowship at Oxford, and then spent four years as a lecturer in pharmacology at the Welsh National School of Medicine. In 1939 came his most important appointment: to the scientific staff of the National Institute of Medical Research, then at Hampstead. When the Institute moved to Mill Hill, Hawking became head of the division of chemotherapy, later renamed ‘parasitology’, a position he held until his first retirement in 1970.

His major scientific interests in the early part of this period related to chemotherapy. In 1950, with J S Lawrence, he published an important book The Sulphonamides, London, H K Lewis, jointly edited with R J Schnitzer over the period 1963-65, and made a number of valuable contributions to a series entitled Experimental Chemotherapy, New York, Academic Press. This interest in how to kill parasites led him directly to studies on their biology and biochemistry, and to around 150 publications on protozoan and helminth parasites. Some of his most interesting work related to the periodicity shown by blood microfilaria, and he spent a great deal of effort in determining what cues from the host were telling the parasites when best to enter the peripheral circulation in order to meet their vectors.

His big disappointment was being beaten to the discovery of the liver stages of malaria by Shortt and Garnham.

Following his retirement from Mill Hill, Frank spent a year at a primate centre in the United States, three years at the Clinical Research Centre at Harrow, three more as a senior research fellow at Brunei University, and then worked as editor of Protozoological Abstracts at the Commonwealth Bureau at St Albans until July 1982. Work meant a great deal to him and he was active to the end.

Frank Hawking was not a ‘hail fellow well met’ person; a basic shyness was often misjudged as being compounded by a mixture of self-interest and disinterest in others, but this was wrong. He could be, at times, very kind but his shyness prevented him from offering his help in special circumstances.

Frank would have never thought of himself as having gifts as a teacher but throughout the years the Mill Hill Laboratory attracted a large number of workers, many of whom now occupy university chairs or are highly placed in the pharamceutical industry. They all learned something from him.

He left a wife and four children; one being Stephen Hawking FRS, his brilliant but sadly handicapped son who was, at the same time, both a great joy and a great sorrow to his father.

SR Smithers
RJ Terry

[Brit.med.J., 1986,293,455]

(Volume VIII, page 215)

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