Lives of the fellows

Charles Roland Lowe

b.30 January 1912 d.4 November 1993
CBE(1982) MB ChB Birm(1936) DPH(1948) MD(1950) PhD(1951) FRCGP(1971) FFPHM(1974) FRCP(1976)

Roland Lowe was the son of a quarry owner. He was born in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, and educated at Dudley Grammar School and Birmingham University. After graduation and a year in house jobs, he went into general practice at King’s Heath, Birmingham, from 1938-41. He then served in the RAMC from 1941-45, mostly in the Middle East and for three years he was responsible for the care of refugees from Yugoslavia. His Army experience aroused his interest in public health and motivated him to leave general practice and join the new department of social medicine at Birmingham in 1948. Under the dynamic influence of Tom McKeown [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.311] and Lancelot Hogben, he became a competent researcher and made a noteworthy contribution as an epidemiologist through his studies of congenital abnormalities, respiratory tuberculosis, and care of the elderly infirm. He thrived as an academic and broadened his experience by becoming medical adviser to the General Electric Company in Birmingham.

His appointment, in 1962, to the chair of social and occupational medicine at the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff was appropriate and fully deserved. He continued his epidemiological investigations, the most notable of which was a classic study of chronic bronchitis in steel workers in South Wales. He and his co-workers found no relation between respiratory disability and atmospheric pollution in the steelworks, but ex-miners had substantially more chronic bronchitis than non-miners irrespective of age and smoking habits. From 1964-72 he was medical adviser to the Department of Employment, Welsh Office. He contributed much to public health and occupational medicine through his teaching and writing, and An introduction to social medicine, Oxford, Blackwell, 1966, which he wrote with Tom McKeown, remained a standard textbook for over 20 years. Visiting professorships, and his work as a WHO consultant, enabled him to make a special contribution to health care in developing countries and he emphasized that progress depended more on adequate nutrition, income, sanitary engineering, housing and working conditions than on personal medical services. After retirement, he chaired the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council for six years and influenced government policy for compensating work related disease.

Ronald was a delightful companion, with a dry sense of humour, who hated pomposity and was always ready, without being aggressive, to question authority if its tenets were unacceptable. His critical asides at conferences were often irreverent but always entertaining. He was a cultured man who enjoyed music and all the good things of life, including literature, travel, wine and good food. Above all, he enjoyed a very happy marriage to Barbara Flanders (Bobbie). They had one daughter, Anna Margery.

R S F Schilling

[Brit.med.J., 1994,308,129;The Independent, 16 Dec 1993]

(Volume IX, page 322)

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