Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Warren

b.11 June 1929 d.18 September 1996
AB Harvard(1951) MD(1955) DTM&H FRCP(1986)

Kenneth Warren was born in New York, the son of an American businessman, William Harwood Warren and his wife, Julie H Gerstenblith. He was educated at Stuyvesant High School and went on to Harvard University where he graduated AB in 1951 (cum laude). His college roommate, C Leonard Gordon, remembered that he majored in history and literature, his honours thesis being concerned with T S Eliot. Fearless throughout his career, he had no hesitation in writing to T S Eliot asking him why he left America. He received a charming reply explaining that he had never felt that he left America. He just found himself in England.

Deciding on a medical career, Warren then entered Harvard Medical School, carrying out his clinical studies at the Boston City Hospital and graduating (again cum laude) in 1955. From 1956 until 1963, he worked at the Laboratory of Tropical Diseases which was part of the National Institutes of Health. During this period, he came, like his hero, T S Eliot, to England, working with Dame Sheila Sherlock as an honorary Fellow at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith in 1959. He also studied at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

From 1963 until 1977 he taught at the School of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, becoming professor of medicine in 1975. He also served as professor of library science between 1974 and 1977, a reflection of his lifelong love of literature and his increasing enthusiasm for the new technology then influencing medical communication.

By now he had established himself as a physician well regarded for his research and knowledge of tropical disease and, in 1977, he was appointed director of health sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, a post he was to hold for ten years. It was during this time that he established his research programme on the ‘great neglected diseases of mankind’, his concerns being with malaria, schistosomiasis (a special interest of his own), dysentery, the immunology of disease in developing countries and haematological disorders such as thalassaemia. He obtained the active collaboration of some of the leading medical scientists of the day, including Weatherall in Oxford, David at Harvard and Gus Nossal from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. The different teams were brought together once a year, in an appropriate venue, for scientific meetings that were as intellectually brilliant as they were popular. He ensured that his programme maintained close links with tropical research in Britain by inviting the chairman of the tropical medicine research board of the Medical Research Council to his annual meetings.

Ken Warren also spent a year at the Rockefeller Foundation as associate vice president for molecular biology and information sciences. It was this that brought him to the attention of the flawed entrepreneur Robert Maxwell, and he became director of science for Maxwell from 1989 until the tycoons death in 1992. He then worked as chairman and chief executive of Comprehensive Medical Systems, a venture capital concern based in Manhattan.

For the last four years of his life he was vice-president for academic affairs at the Picower Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, Long Island, at which he was awarded an honorary degree of science a few months before his death. He died, of disseminated malignant melanoma, at his home at Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Ken Warren was an engaging and challenging colleague, always interested in what was new, whether in technology or in basic scientific research. He married Sylvia Marjorie Rothwell, an English lady, a relationship which encouraged his anglophilia. They had a son and a daughter.

Sir Christopher Booth

[The New York Times, 21 Sept 1996]

(Volume X, page 508)

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