Lives of the fellows

Andrew Sinclair McLean

b.26 March 1919 d.27 July 1981
CBE(1975) MB ChB Edin(1943) DIH(1948) FRCP(1975) FFOM(1979) Hon MD Edin(1981)

Andrew McLean was born in Edinburgh, his father, Andrew McLean, having been a manager with the Bank of Scotland. He was educated at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh and at the Forres Academy in Morayshire before entering Edinburgh University whence he graduated in medicine in 1943. He was house surgeon at the Royal Northern Infirmary, Inverness in that year, and then served as a captain RAMC from 1943 to 1946. After a year in general practice, he took his Diploma in Industrial Health and entered the field of occupational medicine and radiation protection, to which he was to contribute so much.

He was appointed as medical officer to the Department of Atomic Energy of the Ministry of Supply at its Springfields works in Preston in 1948, and continued with that department, and with its successor in the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, until 1971, becoming director of the Health and Safety Branch of its Industrial Group in 1957, and director of Health and Safety of the Authority itself in 1959.

This was a formative period in the development both of the theoretical and of the practical aspects of industrial radiation protection in this country. Andrew’s breadth of scientific reading and interests, his feel for the essentials of occupational medicine, and his profound commonsense and wisdom enabled him to play an increasingly important part in establishing the principles and practice of this complex discipline. He collaborated easily and perceptively with colleagues in allied fields of work, developed strong teams of assistants, and was able to plan and supervise the safety of workers, in their varied and difficult workplaces, soundly and with foresight.

At the time of the accidental release of radionuclides from an overheated Windscale reactor in 1957, his advice to the Authority and to Government ensured that appropriate actions could be taken on the basis of detailed and quantitative assessments of the environmental contamination, and of the most important effects of the accident and the counter measures available.

In 1971, the National Radiological Protection Board was set up, to keep the whole field of radiation exposure under review, and to advise government and industry generally on secure methods and criteria of radiation protection. As its first director, Andrew McLean had the qualities to ensure the Board’s rapid development as a source of authoritative, objective and practical guidance on radiation protection in its various aspects; he had wide knowledge of the effects of ionising radiation, familiarity with new data and a sound assessment of their strength or weaknesses, and the capacity to foresee the needs for investigation or consideration of emerging problems.

He had close contacts in the fields of radiation hygiene internationally, and his opinion was constantly valued in Europe and across the Atlantic. He was a member of the International Commission on Radiological Protection from 1969 to 1977, and of the World Health Organization’s Expert Advisory Panel on Radiation. He worked on the Euratom Group of experts responsible for advising on basic safety standards; and on its Scientific and Technical Committee. At home he was a member of the Medical Research Council’s Committee on Protection Against Ionising Radiation, and of the Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee.

He was appointed CBE in 1975. His election to the fellowship of the College came in the same year, and to that of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine in 1979. The conferment of an honorary doctorate of medicine by his own University of Edinburgh in 1981 gave him great pleasure.

He married Christine, daughter of Colonel James Allen Mackintosh, TD FEIS, of Inverness in 1943, and they had two daughters. His home and his family meant a great deal to him and his warm and generous personality touched a wide circle of his friends and colleagues.

Sir Edward Pochin

[Times, 31 July 1981;, 1981, 283, 624; Lancet, 1981, 2, 376]

(Volume VII, page 364)

<< Back to List