Lives of the fellows

Grant Winder Liddle

b.27 June 1921 d.29 June 1989
BS Utah(1943) MD(California) *FRCP(1982)

Grant Liddle was born in American Fork, Utah, the son of Parley Heber Liddle, a draughtsman. He was a third generation descendent of Mormon pioneers who said that ‘the glory of God is intelligence’. After his early education at Granite High School, Utah, he entered the University of Utah where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated BS. He served in the US Armed Forces from 1943-46 and on cessation of hostilities, thanks to the Army and the GI Bill of Rights, he was able to study medicine and graduated MD from the University of California, San Francisco.

From 1948-51 he held house posts at UCSF and then joined Leslie Bennett as his first postdoctoral fellow at the newly formed metabolic research unit for the study of arthritis and related diseases. When Peter Forsham succeeded Bennett, Grant Liddle remained with the unit and continued to work in the field of pituitary-adrenal physiology and pharmacology. In 1953 he moved to the newly formed clinical centre at the National Institutes of Health, where he joined Fred Bartter in the section of clinical endocrinology. In 1956 he was invited by Hugh Moran to become director of the division of endocrinology at Vanderbilt, being appointed a full professor in the department of medicine in 1961 and then chairman of the department in 1968, a position he held until 1983 when he was obliged to resign because of illness. Grant Liddle’s leadership brought the department into the front rank of American medicine. He coupled high achievements in science with a deep personal concern for students, faculty, staff and patients.

In 1971 he married Victoria (Vicky) Ragin and they had five children. That was also the year in which he received the first distinguished leadership award of the Endocrine Society; and in 1977 he became the third Vanderbilt physician to receive the prestigious John Phillips memorial award, the highest honour bestowed by the American College of Physicians.

Liddle was instrumental in defining the role of the pituitary gland in Cushing’s disease; developing the dexamethasone suppression tests and the methyrapone test for assessing pituitary-adrenal gland function; defining the ectopic ACTH syndrome and the concept of hormone secretion by nonendocrine tumours; describing a new curable form of hypertension, psuedohyperaldosteronism, rightly called Liddle’s Syndrome; clarifying the role of the adrenal cortex in hypertension; elucidating the normal and abnormal regulation of ACTH and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (now known as lipotropin) secretion in man; defining the clinical pharmacology of a series of adrenal enzyme inhibitors; describing the effects of certain drugs on the extra-adrenal metabolism of adrenocortical steroids; developing spironolactones as clinically useful aldosterone antagonists, and systematically improving methods for treating Cushing’s disease.

The postdoctoral training programme he established at the Vanderbilt attracted some of the brightest young students from around the world; many now hold important academic positions at home or abroad. Through them and those they, in their turn, have trained, Grant Liddle’s gift for incisive clinical investigation continues to influence endocrine research. In addition to serving on advisory councils to the National Institutes of Health, various editorial boards and study sections, Grant Liddle was instrumental in bringing the United States into the International Society of Endocrinology and served as its president.

He also served as president of the Endocrine Society, the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. In 1982 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, USA, and to the fellowship of the RCP. He never had an opportunity to be formally inducted to the fellowship before his sudden stroke and resultant hemiplegia and loss of speech.

Grant Liddle was in the vanguard of physician-scientists who developed the guidelines for clinical investigation, being internationally known in that field. After his death the Grant W Liddle MD Scholar Fund was set up to provide up to two years financial assistance, during the transition period between research fellowship and independent research support, for graduates wishing to pursue clinical investigation. In name and spirit the project honours the work of Grant Liddle as physician, teacher, scientist and scholar.

T Normand

* 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.."

(Volume IX, page 314)

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