Lives of the fellows

William MacAdam

b.10 December 1885 d.19 May 1976
MA Glasg(1904) BSc(1907) MB ChB(1909) MD(1914) MRCP(1916) FRCP(1932)

William MacAdam was born in Helensburgh, the son of a Glasgow business man. He was educated at Hermitage Grammar School, Helensburgh, and at Glasgow University. He graduated with honours in 1909 after winning the Brunton memorial prize. He proceeded to the MD, again with honours, in 1914, and in 1916 obtained the MRCP.

After resident appointments in Glasgow, he became a McCunn and Carnegie research scholar in pathological chemistry. From 1915 to 1919 he served in the Army as a pathologist, first at Netley and later in India and Mesopotamia, and eventually as officer in charge of the pathological services to two military hospitals in Baghdad.

After the war he started his long association with the Leeds School of Medicine and University of Leeds, working with his fellow Scots, MJ Stewart and James MacLeod, at first from 1919 to 1922 as lecturer in pathology. However, his interest turned towards clinical medicine, and in 1922 he was appointed tutor in medicine. In 1925 he was appointed to the staff of the Leeds General Infirmary as assistant physician. He was also subsequently appointed to the Clayton Hospital, Wakefield, and to the General Hospital, Skipton, before being appointed to the full staff of the Infirmary as honorary physician. In 1932, he was also made part-time professor of clinical medicine, and subsequently professor of medicine, which post he held with distinction until 1945, when he was elected emeritus professor.

His move from pathology to clinical medicine occurred in the exciting years of the early 1920’s when investigative procedures were developing fast, and his keen observation and early training enabled him to take full advantage of this period. He became especially interested in diabetes.

MacAdam was an astute and careful physician with exceptional learning, and a very hard worker who soon developed a large practice covering a very wide area. He never, however, allowed this to interfere with his hospital and university commitments, and particularly his teaching sessions in the Infirmary, which he regarded as his primary duty, and which he prepared with great care. These were much appreciated by his students, his residents and his registrars alike. To the former he was a somewhat awesome figure, but he gave much help and encouragement to the latter, who were devoted to him. He took a full part in the administration of the hospital and the University, especially in the critical days when the formation of the National Health Service was under consideration, and also as a member of the senate of the University. He was external examiner to a number of medical schools, including Newcastle and St Andrews.

He was an active member of the BMA, which he joined in 1913, subsequently becoming the president of the Yorkshire branch and twice chairman of the Leeds division. In 1959 his work for the BMA was recognized when he was made a fellow. He was also a founder member of the British Society of Gastroenterology, and for many years the driving force in the West Riding Medical Society.

Throughout his long life his work was always his main interest, an interest which never left him up to the time of his death, but he enjoyed golf, which he played at the weekends and occasionally on the summer evenings, and he was made an honorary member of the Alwoodley Golf Club.

In 1928 he married Irene Tincker, the daughter of a Congregational minister, and herself a doctor and a magistrate, from whom he received invaluable support throughout his married life. They had two sons and one daughter, all doctors, of whom they were justifiably proud. He died in Leeds.

JRH Towers

[Brit.med.J., 1976, 1, 1537; Lancet, 1976, 1, 1306]

(Volume VII, page 348)

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