b.1 January 1896 d.23 October 1983
MB ChM Sydney(1920) MRCP(1932) MD(1950) FRCP(1950)
AIG McLaughlin (‘Mac’ to his many friends) was born in Sydney, New South Wales, the son of William Henry McLaughlin of the New South Wales Mounted Police. He went to school in Sydney and then joined the Australian Army, where he saw service in Egypt during World War I. Returning to university in Sydney he qualified in medicine (with honours) in 1920. After his house jobs he joined the RAAMC and served for a year with the army of occupation in New Guinea.
He came to the United Kingdom in 1922 and did house jobs at the Hampstead General Hospital and the Victoria Park Chest Hospital before joining the tuberculosis department at St Thomas’s, where he worked until 1930, becoming chief assistant and submitting a series of articles on clinical and physiological aspects of chest disease. Having obtained the Dorothy Temple Cross research fellowship in 1930 he visited the United States where he met Leroy Gardner at Saranac Lake. This lit the fire of his enthusiasm for occupational chest diseases. He then spent some time at the Laënnec Hospital in Paris which gave him a familiarity with European medicine and a facility in French which he kept for the rest of his life. On his return he joined the medical unit at UCH until 1934.
This thorough grounding in chest medicine was an ideal preparation for his career in occupational medicine. He joined HM Medical Inspectorate of Factories in 1934 and was posted to Leeds. There two life long associations were made. He met his wife Rose, the daughter of BP Viret, the examining surgeon for Bradford. He also met the superintendent of Oakwood Sanatorium, AT Doig, who later joined him in the medical inspectorate. Individually and in partnership they added lustre to the study of occupational chest disease, particularly among welders and foundry workers.
There was no greater authority on occupational chest disease than Mac and it was a pleasure to sit at his feet and hear him deal with cases. His precision in taking an occupational history, his careful clinical examination of the chest and his skill at interpreting radiological signs were models of thoroughness and insight. There was no room for observer error when Mac looked at an X-ray.
He was superficially irascible and forthright in his criticisms. He had a slight impediment in his speech which became more pronounced when he was annoyed by shoddy work, unjustified criticism or just mere apathy. He did not get on well with his chief, ERA Merewether, who, I think, resented Mac’s status in the professional world of occupational chest disease, in which Merewether thought himself to be the master.
Expert as he was in all forms of occupational chest disease, it was to foundry workers that he gave the best of himself. He was the principal author of the classic work on the subject Industrial Lung Diseases of Iron and Steel Foundry Workers. This and all his other publications are characterized by a rare clarity and lucidity. His competence as a writer as well as an expert in occupational disease was recognized by Sir Theodore Fox, editor of the Lancet, in which he wrote numerous editorials.
He never ceased to be an enthusiast, not only in his chosen profession, but in his hobbies such as antiques, ceramics, silver and wines. In these enthusiasms, as with all his other activities, he was staunchly supported by his wife Rose and by his family of two boys and two girls, of whom he was very proud.
He was equally proud of his membership and subsequently fellowship of the College, and was honoured by the newly created faculty of occupational medicine by being created a fellow by distinction.
Having left the Medical Inspectorate, he joined Donald Hunter’s unit at the London Hospital where he had freedom to talk, investigate and teach. In his later years he became a formidable expert witness and was used by HM Treasury in all the cases of asbestos-related disease arising in the Royal Navy dockyards. As in everything else he was a stickler for the truth, even though he was naturally concerned to do the best he could for a sick worker. In pneumoconiosis he had no peer, but there were some who thought that his expertise in such matters as cancer of the bladder was of a lower order. It was his expert evidence which swung the judge in favour of Wright and Cassidy against Dunlop and ICI, a cause celèbre whose reverberations are still felt in the rubber and chemical industries.
As befits an Australian he had played tennis to a high standard and even got to Wimbledon in the 1920s. He was a member of the United Hospitals tennis team.
Above all he was a loving father and a true friend and his name will be remembered wherever pneumoconiosis, especially among foundrymen, is discussed.
[Brit.med.J., 1983, 286, 485-486; Lancet, 1983, 2, 1410]
(Volume VII, page 363)
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