b.22 May 1904 d.30 August 1995
CMG(1966) MRCS LRCP(1927) MA Cantab(1929) MD(1942) FRCP(1965)
Edward Spooner was dean of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and, in his work as a medical scientist, was responsible for pioneering work on streptococcal infection. He was born at Blandford, Dorset. His father, William Casswell Spooner, was a medical practitioner, and his mother, Edith Maud, the daughter of a dental surgeon. He was educated at Milton Abbas Grammar School and Epsom College. At Cambridge he studied at Clare College, taking first class honours in both parts of the natural science tripos and went on to St Bartholomew’s. After house appointments at Bart’s, he spent two years as a Commonwealth fellow with Hans Zinnser at the department of bacteriology at Harvard Medical School. On return to England in 1931, he was appointed a university demonstrator (and subsequently lecturer) in the department of pathology at the University of Cambridge. He became a fellow, and later tutor, of Clare College, a role he continued until 1947.
During the Second World War Spooner pioneered research into the transmission of streptococcal infection on surgical wards. He is well remembered for his supervisory roles at that time in physiology and pathology. He also joined a group of scientists, at that time evacuated to Hill End, St Albans, attached to St Bartholomew’s Hospital. He was awarded the Raymond Horton Smith prize by the University of Cambridge for his MD. Following his streptococcal work, Spooner was appointed as a bacteriologist to a medical group despatched to the Middle East (Egypt, Palestine and North Africa) to report on conditions in local hospitals and laboratories. He held the temporary rank of major in the RAMC in No 1 Medical Research Section, but at the request of the Medical Research Council was released from the Army in 1943 to become director of the Emergency Public Health Laboratory, Cambridge.
In 1947, Spooner was appointed as professor of bacteriology and immunology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. After the sudden death of Sir James Kilpatrick in April 1960 he became dean until 1970. In that capacity he was exceedingly approachable, and incredibly kind and helpful to staff and students alike. He is remembered for his warm smile and welcoming air.
Amongst other appointments, with W Cockburn [q.v.], Spooner worked on and documented an outbreak of enteric fever amongst British troops in the Suez canal zone. He was a member of the MRC from 1953 to 1957, and chairman or member of its poliomyelitis, viruses in the tropics, TB in the tropics, blood products, and blood groups reference laboratory, trachoma, non-specific urethritis, and polio vaccine committees. As a member of the Colonial Research Committee (later the Tropical Medicine Research Board), Spooner was involved with its leprosy committee, and visited the West Indies (including a meeting of the Caribbean MRC at Port of Spain) on several occasions. He was also editor of the Journal of Hygiene (1949 to 1955) and chairman of the Public Health Laboratory Service (1963 to 1972). His published papers include work on tetanus, several viral diseases, and wound and hospital infection.
In 1948 he married Colin Mary, daughter of Robert Henry Rynn Stewart, an estate agent. They had two adopted children, one son and one daughter. After retirement he settled at Budleigh Salterton, Devon.
G C Cook
[The Times, 15 Sept 1995]
(Volume X, page 464)
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