Lives of the fellows

Anthony Peter Waterson

b.23 December 1923 d.11 October 1983
MB BChir Cantab(1947) MRCP(1950) MD(1954) FRCP(1970) FRCPath(1973)

Tony Waterson died at the age of 59, having recently retired as professor of virology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London. Academically his record was quite outstanding. He was an open entrance scholar at Epsom College and gained an open scholarship in classics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he obtained a double first in Natural Sciences. He carried out his clinical studies at the London Hospital Medical College, qualifying in 1947.

After house appointments at the London, Waterson served as medical officer in the RAF in Germany. He then returned to Cambridge, first as a house physician at Addenbrooke’s Hospital to Sir Lionel Whitby and Lawrence Martin, followed by an appointment as assistant pathologist in the clinical laboratories. In 1952, Waterson transferred to the University, first as Elmore research student in the department of medicine and then as university demonstrator and later lecturer in the department of pathology, where he stayed until his appointment to St Thomas’s Hospital in 1964. During this period, Waterson was able to combine and achieve distinction in his College and departmental activities. Thus, after being elected to a fellowship of Emmanuel College in 1954, he successfully became director of studies in medicine and assistant tutor and college lecturer in pathology. He was a member of the governing body of Emmanuel College and also served on the College council and tutorial committee. In the department of pathology, Waterson was involved in important discoveries, most of which were related to the fine structure of viruses in which the then newly recognized technique of negative contrast staining was used. His book, Introduction to Animal Virology, was designed specifically for students studying pathology for part II of the Natural Sciences Tripos in Cambridge; it was widely popular, not only in Cambridge but wherever basic virology was being taught.

However, unlike most academic virologists during this time, he realized the potential of the clinical applications of virology, and actively encouraged research into the clinical aspects of virus diseases. When he moved to St Thomas’s Hospital in 1964, after a year’s sabbatical in the Max Planck Institute for Virus Research, Tübingen, he was amongst the foremost to develop clinical services and research into clinical virology. After three years Waterson moved to the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, where he also developed clinical services and continued to supervise research both in basic and clinical virology. His interests and activities covered a wide field and included viral hepatitis, slow virus infections, as well as various aspects of the fine structure, taxonomy and evolution of viruses. He threw himself with enthusiasm into a study of viral infection and cardiomyopathy. At Hammersmith, Tony Waterson was respected and admired for his distinctive approach to clinical virology. His clear, forthright, but unassuming contributions to staff rounds were always received with attention and remembered for their value.

Like many people of high intellectual achievement he was reserved, and despite the breadth of scholarship, truly modest. He never thrust his opinions and views upon others, and was an admirable and imaginative collaborator in research. Those who worked with him appreciated his style, knowledge and competence as well as his capacity for tolerance and understanding.

One of his major achievements was his bringing together of clinical virologists at first in small, but later in much larger groups for meetings at a time when there was no forum available. The large and flourishing clinical virology group, now incorporated into the Society for General Microbiology, provides a tribute to Waterson’s foresight and enthusiasm. Shortly after his retirement, a ‘Festschrift’ was arranged on his behalf at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School. Despite this coinciding with both a complete rail and London Transport strike, it was a measure of the high esteem in which Tony Waterson was held that a large number of his friends and former colleagues still managed to come, not only from the UK but also from abroad.

Tony was a scholar in every sense of the word; he had a considerable knowledge of history, both ancient and modern, and the book he wrote with Lise Wilkinson on the History of Virology is a classic. Unknown, even to many of his closer friends, Waterson was a biblical scholar of some repute and had read the Bible in the original Greek. Those who came to know him well found him kind and considerate, and his behaviour that of a true gentleman; he was also a man of deep religious conviction. He was devoted to and obtained great pleasure from his family; he was survived by his wife, two daughters and a son.

JF Goodwin

[, 1983, 287, 1386 & 2559; Lancet, 1983, 2, 1040; Times, 4 Nov 1983]

(Volume VII, page 590)

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