Lives of the fellows

Alan Anderson Sharp

b.19 August 1925 d.18 October 1983
BSc Edin(1946) MB ChB(1947) MD(1957) MA Oxon(1963) MRCP(1969) FRCPath(1971) FRCP(1975)

Alan Sharp was born and brought up in Edinburgh. He was educated at George Watson’s College and entered the medical school in Edinburgh at the age of sixteen, graduating BSc in 1946 and qualifying in medicine the next year. Like many Scotsmen, he spent all his professional life outside Scotland, but retained his accent and an abiding affection for his beautiful native city.

His interest in haematology was kindled while clerking in Stanley (later Sir) Davidson’s wards at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh and he began his training in clinical pathology in Carlisle and Newcastle. In 1955 he moved to Oxford as lecturer in haematology and was immediately enveloped in the exciting environment created by Gwyn Macfarlane and Rosemary Biggs. He became deeply and enthusiastically involved in their work on coagulation and fibrinolysis, and in 1957 the University of Edinburgh awarded him a gold medal for his MD thesis on platelet physiology and antigenicity. Two years later he became consultant haematologist to the Radcliffe Infirmary and established for himself an international reputation as an authority on disorders of blood coagulation.

He was a founder member of the Royal College of Pathologists, was a member of council and elected vice-president in 1978. He had a special interest in the training of pathologists, not only in the committee-based planning of a curriculum, but he also set an example in his own laboratory, with his flair for exciting the enthusiasm of his colleagues and his ability to create the happy atmosphere in which cooperation between the laboratory and the bedside became indissoluble.

Alan Sharp was a big man who believed in living on a large scale. He liked to drive fast cars fast, he loved flying and he was an expert and fearless sailor. He combined a natural gift for leadership with a warmth of character which created a feeling of good fellowship, whether in the laboratory, the classroom or in a committee, and he liked to finish the day with a group of colleagues in a nearby hostelry, recounting the day’s events with good humour and much wit. His accounts of some of his friends’ actions were sometimes acerbic, but never hurtful and resolved before the day was out in an atmosphere of good humoured tolerance; at the beginning and at the end of the day everyone was his friend.

He was an excellent committee man because he always did his homework, was totally straightforward, and maintained a friendly informality which helped a hung committee to get off the hook and co-operate again in a positive fashion. He made a vital contribution to the planning and opening of the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and such was his integrity that whenever difficult decisions about services or staff had to be made, his help was always sought.

Alan Sharp had a large circle of friends. He and his charming wife Joy were always the most generous of hosts in their home at Woodstock, where they had brought up their family of two sons and a daughter in that friendly and welcoming atmosphere that turned every acquaintance into a friend.

It was sad that he died after a long, distressing illness in the year in which he was president elect of the British Society for Haematology, to which he had contributed so much.


[, 1983, 287, 1557; Lancet, 1983, 2, 1095]

(Volume VII, page 528)

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