Lives of the fellows

John Rupert Squire

b.20 August 1915 d.6 January 1966
MA Cantab(1938) MRCS LRCP(1939) MB BChir(1939) MRCP(1941) MD Birm(1948) FRCP(1950) FRCPath(1963)

John Squire, born at Kingston-on-Thames, was the son of a company director, Alfred Eustace Squire. His mother was Elsie Mary, daughter of Moses Charles Le Brun, a master baker. He was a King’s Scholar of Westminster School and in 1936, with a First Class in Part II of the Cambridge Physiology Tripos, he went to Unversity College Hospital Medical School, where he gained a Goldsmidt scholarship and the Fellowes medal, qualifying MB, BChir in 1939.

His first paper in Clinical Science was written as a student. His qualification coincided with the outbreak of war, and as a house physician to Sir Thomas Lewis and later medical tutor at University College Hospital he took part in the difficult but successful operation of transporting the clinical school to Cardiff. Thereafter he became registrar in the Medical Unit at UCH.

His ability as an investigator was already so evident that shortly after joining the Army in 1942 he was appointed to the Medical Research Section at GHQ Home Forces as a GSO2. Later in the War he went to South East Asia as a Medical Specialist, and then with the rank of Lt. Colonel as O/C Biological Research Section, Allied Land Forces, South East Asia. For these services he was mentioned in despatches.

After the war he took service with the Medical Research Council and was Director of the Industrial Medicine and Bums Research Unit at the Birmingham Accident Hospital. From this post in 1948, at the early age of 33, he was appointed to the Leith Chair of Experimental Pathology and the Directorship of the Division of Pathological Studies in the University of Birmingham. There he built up an excellent department of experimental pathology which consisted of three powerful research schools. These were in renal disease, with particular reference to the nephrotic syndrome and the mechanisms of proteinuria, a strong division of immunological chemistry, and a large research team investigating the connective tissue disorders with particular reference to the characteristics of the blood proteins in rheumatoid arthritis. All these endeavours were characterised by the application of the best scientific methods and the evaluation of results by strict scientific standards.

John Squire retained a close association with the Industrial Medicine Research Unit, and the studies by him and his colleagues on skin cancer constitute an important chapter in industrial medicine. Some years later the MRC established under Squire’s honorary directorship in the University Department of Pathology a Unit for Research on Experimental Pathology of the Skin. This prospered and is breaking new ground in knowledge of the metabolism of skin and the ways in which this can be altered by micro-organisms and allergens.

In 1957 he gave the Oliver Sharpey Lectures on The Functions of the Plasma Proteins’. He was the moving spirit in the establishment of an excellent clinical research unit at the East Birmingham General Hospital, where he was consulting physician, while at the same time a consultant in pathology to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

In administrative matters his services to the University of Birmingham were outstanding. He was Deputy Dean from 1959-61, and he was at the central point of much of the scientific development of the Faculty of Medicine. He devoted much energy to the application of computer methods to hospital and laboratory work.

His many interests outside Birmingham are almost too numerous to mention. However, pre-eminent among these was his work as Director-Designate of the Medical Research Council Clinical Research Centre. For several years he supervised the planning of this centre and at the time of his death it seemed that he could look forward to its coming into commission in a very few years. In many other ways he served the Medical Research Council, such as the chairmanship of the working party on hypogammaglobulinaemia, and membership of the committees on the carcinogenic action of mineral oils, occupational health and toxicology. He was also chairman of the Army Personnel Research Committee and amongst his many activities he found time to be a Regional Adviser in Civil Defence.

He always had a deep interest in medical education and he was a member of the Royal Commission on Medical Education.

All these cold facts outline a career of the highest achievement. However, there is much more to be said of John Squire. He was the kindest and friendliest of men with a great sense of humility and an enthusiasm which inspired others to give of their best.

In 1940 he married Marguerite Mary, daughter of George Ronald Lewtey, an engineer. They had two daughters. He gave devoted attention to his wife, daughters and his mother.

His full professional and family life left him little time for recreation but it seemed to those who knew him well that to him work was such a joy as to be a recreation in itself.

John Squire died suddenly at University College Hospital on one of his numerous visits to London.

Sir W Melville Arnott

[Brit.med.J., 1966, 1, 173 , 240, 302; Lancet, 1966, 1, 157, 212, 378; Times, 8 Jan 1966]

(Volume VI, page 412)

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