Lives of the fellows

Fred Stratton

b.8 October 1913 d.2 April 2001
MB ChB Manch(1937) DPH(1939) MD(1944) DSc(1957) MRCP(1960) FRCPath(1963) FRCP(1966)

Fred Stratton was the director of the Manchester Blood Transfusion Centre for almost 40 years. The University of Manchester granted him, in 1977, a personal chair in human serology. He was an early researcher into the human blood groups and discovered the rhesus subtype Du. He spent many years investigating the importance of complement in relation to blood group reactions and preparing sophisticated reagents for the detection of complement dependent reactions.

Fred Stratton was born into a strict Quaker household in Levenshulme, Manchester. He was educated at the Central Manchester Grammar School and from there he attended the medical school at Manchester University. He financed his time at medical school by winning scholarships and qualified in 1937. He became a doctor of medicine, with commendation, in 1944 and was awarded a doctor of science degree in 1957.

He was a founder fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists and was granted a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians for his outstanding work in transfusion medicine.

After a short period working in general practice, he joined the regional blood depot, established in June 1940 as part of the plans for blood collection during the Second World War, where he became deputy to the director, John Wilkinson.

In 1946 he was appointed as regional blood transfusion officer and, in 1949, director of the newly established Manchester Blood Transfusion Centre. Initially the Centre occupied premises in a converted Accident Hospital in Roby Street close to Piccadilly in central Manchester. He was offered new premises in the grounds of a hospital on the periphery of Manchester, but preferred to remain near the centre of the city by occupying one floor of the nearby Regional Health Authority. The laboratory remained at Roby Street and the blood collection teams and collection centre, donor recruitment and administration were transferred to Gateway House in the Regional Authority.

For reasons of defence, it was decided to created a second centre in the region to provide a service for the hospitals in the north, previously carried out by the Liverpool Transfusion Service. The Lancaster Centre opened in 1964 and he became director of both centres.

His work in blood transfusion earned him awards both at home and abroad. In 1963 he was awarded the Oliver memorial award. This award, established in honour of Percy Oliver, who was responsible for organising blood donor panels in England from 1921 until the outbreak of the war, was given to persons who had made major contributions to the science and practice of blood transfusion.

In 1978 the American Association of Blood Banks presented him with their premier prize, the Karl Landsteiner award, not often awarded outside the USA. He was an honorary member of the International Society of Blood Transfusion.

Fred Stratton had a clear vision of how the blood transfusion service should develop. His expertise was sought not only within the region but also nationally and internationally. He maintained the highest standards in the centre and all innovations were thoroughly investigated before their introduction.

With Peter Renton, his colleague and deputy director for many years, he published, in 1957, a book entitled Practical blood grouping (Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publishing, 1958) which received international acclaim.

He liked nothing better than to work in his laboratory. Administrative matters bored him and his desk often had a large pile of unanswered mail, which he would tackle, with a sudden burst of energy. His philosophy was that if there was anything urgent that required his immediate attention the person involved would contact him.

In 1954, with his wife, Louisa, he purchased a large plot of land opposite a farm in Poynton, Cheshire. He had a house built on the site and Louisa designed and planted the gardens. He was dedicated to his professional work and had little time available for outside interests. However, over the next 30 years he devoted any spare time to his family, the house and the garden.

Fred concentrated on the maintenance of the garden with its extensive lawns. His inventiveness at work was mirrored, not always successfully, at home. When setbacks occurred his explosive temper would sometimes get the better of him, although he mellowed rapidly. Over the years he acquired a number of gadgets and garden machinery. At his height he had five lawnmowers, a mechanical leaf sweeper, an industrial sprayer, several wheelbarrows and much more. All was not plain sailing. He would occasionally savage a precious plant or destroy part of the lawn with the wrong chemicals. However, after many years the grounds and lawns were such that any gardener would have been proud of them.

Following his retirement in 1980 he became research director at the Manchester Centre and was able to spend most of his time in the laboratory. Perhaps, however, the most lasting achievement in his latter years was the creation of the British Blood Transfusion Society. He chaired the group that set up the Society and was elected president in 1982. He successfully negotiated sponsorship for the Society's two major awards, the James Blundell and the Goldsmith. He was presented with the former award in 1987.

Fred Stratton was essentially shy, cheerful and energetic. His home was his haven away from the world. His shyness meant that he found the many foreign trips he had to make a challenge. In his later years he would only travel after meticulous preparation and if accompanied by Louisa. He would take innumerable spare items with him to cope with any eventuality and to make the trip more comfortable.

He is survived by his wife Louisa and two sons, Fred and Richard to whom he was an enthusiastic father and always brought them toys which were out of the ordinary for their birthdays and at Christmas. He was proud of their achievements, Fred following him into medicine and Richard into law. His happiness was most often manifested by a quiet beaming smile rather than anything more demonstrative.

Harold Gundon
Richard Stratton

[The Guardian 30 May 2001]

(Volume XI, page 560)

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