Lives of the fellows

Anthony Monck-Mason Payne

b.10 August 1911 d.14 October 1970
BA Cantab(1933) MB BChir(1936) MRCP(1941) MD(1946) FRCP(1964) Hon MA Yale(1960)

Anthony Monck-Mason Payne was born in London, the son of J.E. Payne, FRCS, a general physician in Eastbourne, and of Dr. Sylvia Mary Payne, CBE, the noted psychoanalyst whose father was Edward Moore, a clergyman of the Church of England.

After attending St. Cyprian’s Preparatory School, Eastbourne, he was enrolled in Wellington College, and went from there to Cambridge University where he obtained the BA degree in Natural Science with Honours in 1933.

His medical training was obtained at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. He graduated MB BChir (Cambridge) in 1936 and MD in 1946. He became a Member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1941 and was elected to the Fellowship in 1964. In 1960 the Honorary degree of Master of Arts was conferred on him by Yale University, USA.

His resident appointments were at the Royal Free Hospital, London from 1937 to 1941. In 1940 he was also appointed medical superintendent of the hospital during the reorganization necessary to meet wartime needs. From 1941 to 1946 he was a medical specialist in the Royal Army Medical Corps serving mainly in India, first with the rank of Major and later of Lieutenant-Colonel. He returned to the Royal Free Hospital in 1946 as senior medical registrar.

In 1947 he decided to leave the clinical field and joined the Public Health Laboratory Service (Medical Research Council) first as an epidemiologist at the Central Public Health Laboratory, Colindale, where he had a special interest in virus diseases, and later as senior epidemiologist in the Public Health Laboratory, Oxford. In 1952 he accepted an appointment as an epidemiologist in the World Health Organization, Geneva, and during the next eight years became, first, Chief Medical Officer of the unit of Endemo-Epidemic Diseases, and then Chief Medical Officer of the newly established Virus unit. During this period he was secretary of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel for Virus Diseases and of the Expert Committees on Poliomyelitis, Influenza, Respiratory Virus Diseases and Hepatitis.

In 1960 he was appointed Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University School of Medicine and was also chairman of the Department. In 1966 he returned to the World Health Organization, Geneva, as Assistant Director-General.

In the early days of his first spell in WHO Payne was primarily interested in influenza, and very successfully developed the network of influenza centres first proposed by Sir Christopher Andrewes and others. By 1957 when the pandemic of "Asian" influenza swept across the world, the network was functioning well and Payne gained international recognition for his most important role in collecting and disseminating information on the characteristics of the virus and on the spread and clinical severity of the disease. His second main interest in those days was poliomyelitis and hand in hand with the specialists of world repute on the subject he was closely concerned with the organization of the First and Second International Conferences on Live Poliovirus Vaccines, the Proceedings of which remain most important sources of information on the development and early use of these vaccines and are a memorial to his contributions in this field.

A noteworthy and original contribution was his observation of the inverse relationship between the fall in infant mortality rates and the rise in the incidence of poliomyelitis. He was also closely concerned with the early development of the programme for the eradication of smallpox.

About this time he began to interest himself in a broad concept of epidemiology, going much beyond the field of the communicable diseases, and when in 1960 he was appointed to the chair of epidemiology at Yale he had scope to develop, and to teach, his "holist" concept. He reorganized the teaching of preventive medicine to undergraduates and postgraduates on the basis of his views of the importance of the multifactorial origins of disease.

On his return to WHO in 1966 his influential position as Assistant Director-General gave him further opportunities to put his ideas into practice, and his guidance was decisive in the development of much of the research carried out by WHO - particularly in new approaches to epidemiology and communications science and to effective international surveillance for the control of diseases.

Payne was cultured, patient, shrewd and penetrating. He was quick to realize possibilities for innovation and creativity when they cropped up, and was a clear thinker and an expert in communication at all levels. He spoke and wrote with clarity and with seeming ease, and was a catalyst for cooperation. These qualities made him an outstanding committee man, and the WHO Reports of the Expert Committees and Scientific Groups of which he was secretary show this very clearly.

In early days he was an enthusiastic oarsman and was Captain of the First Trinity Boat Club from 1932-1933. He was also a low-handicap golfer. Later he became an expert worker in wood and in electronics. He was a mechanical perfectionist, as was demonstrated by his home-built hi-fidelity and radio equipment, and his care for his old Bentley which was well known on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1941 he married Dr Margaret Catherine Smith, daughter of Leonard Smith, a civil servant. They had three sons, and he had one son by a previous marriage.

He died in Geneva.

P Dorolle
William Cockburn

[Times, 22 Oct 1970; Brit.med.J., 1970, 4, 309; Lancet, 2, 884; WHO Chron. Nov 1970, 24, 502-3]

(Volume VI, page 371)

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