Lives of the fellows

John William Laws

b.25 October 1921 d.20 March 1999
CBE(1982) MB ChB Sheffield(1944) MRCP(1951) DMRD(1952) FFR(1955) FRCP(1967) Hon FACR(1973) FRCR(1975) Hon FFR RCSI(1975) Hon FRACR(1977)

John Laws was one of the outstanding radiologists of his generation. He was born in Luton, but the family later moved to Sheffield. He was educated at Westbourne School and obtained a scholarship to the Leys School, Cambridge. He went on to qualify in medicine at the University of Sheffield. He subsequently completed a number of junior hospital jobs, mainly in Sheffield, and saw service in the RAMC. He developed an interest in diagnostic radiology and, in 1955, after obtaining the necessary qualifications and gaining a great deal of experience, was invited to join the X-ray department at the Hammersmith and Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, as a consultant and senior lecturer.

This move to London provided him with the opportunity to get deeply involved in the development of the department which, at that time, was run down and ill equipped. Furthermore, with the arrival of new techniques and a much closer collaboration with clinical departments, diagnostic radiology was developing and expanding rapidly. John Laws played an important role in the newly formed academic department.

In the clinical field he was remarkably successful, collaborating closely with consultants in many areas of medicine and his opinions and advice were constantly sought by all. His main research interests were in gastro-enterology, some aspects of chronic pulmonary disorders and rheumatology. In all these areas he published extensively over many years.

In 1967 he moved to King’s College Hospital to become director of the department of diagnostic radiology, where his first task was to reorganize and rebuild the department from scratch and to introduce close clinical collaboration with all his colleagues. Teaching of undergraduates and post-graduates too was a major priority. All his efforts were remarkably successful and greatly helped to establish King’s X-ray department as one of the beacons in British radiology.

Those who were in close contact with John Laws for many years greatly admired his quiet and reserved personality, sense of duty and integrity, courteous manner and sense of humour. It was therefore not surprising that his contributions to radiology expanded into the national arena. He first became registrar, then warden and finally president of the Royal College of Radiologists. He held the position of consultant adviser to the department of health and consultant civilian adviser to the Army. For all his service to radiology he was awarded the CBE in 1982.

After his retirement in 1986 he indulged his great artistic talents, working in sculpture, silver and photography. His donations to the Royal College of Radiologists include the busts of four past presidents and a silver table light.

His first wife, Pamela King, a doctor, died in 1985. They had two children, James and Susan. In 1986 he married Diana Brinkley, a consultant clinical oncologist at King’s College Hospital. Together they spent many happy years pursuing their many joint interests, especially world-wide travel to exotic places. John Laws will be remembered with affection and esteem by his friends and colleagues.

R E Steiner

[Brit.med.J., 1999,318,1767; The Times 30 Apr 1999]

(Volume XI, page 329)

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