Lives of the fellows

Edward James Moran Campbell

b.31 August 1925 d.12 April 2004
BSc Lond(1946) MB BS(1949) MD(1951) MRCP(1952) PhD(1954) FRCP(1964)

When Moran Campbell was invited to take the R Samuel McLoughlin foundation chair of medicine at the new medical school of McMaster, Ontario, Canada, at the age of 43, Britain lost one of its most original and exciting academic clinicians. He left behind an unequalled reputation as one of the foremost clinical scientists of his generation. After a sparkling undergraduate career at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, which included winning the most prestigious undergraduate prize (the First Broderip scholarship) and an taking an intercalated BSc in physiology, he qualified in medicine in 1949. He was marked down by Samson Wright [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.463], the professor of physiology, as a high flyer, and was appointed to the newly created post of lecturer in physiological medicine, in 1950.

Always sceptical about everything, he decided to find out whether physiotherapists could really (as they claimed) control the diaphragm and the other muscles involved in breathing. This led to careful and original clinical observations and experiments, to scholarly papers, and eventually to a classic monograph The respiratory muscles and the mechanics of breathing (London, Lloyd-Luke [Medical Books], 1958).

By 1950, Moran knew that his life's work would be to understand breathing and the functions of the lung. So when he won a travelling fellowship to the USA, he went straight to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to work with Dick Riley (internationally famous since his work with Cournand on cardiac catheters and the measurement of cardiac output in man). Here he learnt the fiendishly difficult 'bubble' technique of measuring arterial PO2 and PCO2. For a year or two he was the only person in Europe who could do this and was thus uniquely equipped to study seriously ill people with chronic airways obstruction. These patients needed oxygen, but it sometimes killed them from CO2 retention. By his precise and careful measurements, Moran realised that accurate control of oxygen administration was essential. This could not be achieved by nasal catheters or oxygen tents. By reading, consulting and experimenting, he was led to introduce the ventimask, which is still in use all over the world.

His academic reputation burgeoned rapidly, receiving its ultimate accolade in the UK by the award of the 1964 Goulstonian lectureship of the College and, in the USA, by the award of the equally prestigious Burns Andersen lectureship, the first non-American to be thus honoured. In the meantime he spread the gospel of 'clinical science', teaching students the application of physiology to the management of serious medical problems. With John Dickinson, he edited the first edition of the undergraduate textbook Clinical physiology (Oxford, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1960), which went on to several reprints and five editions.

On leaving the Middlesex, he was recruited to the Hammersmith Postgraduate School, where he continued to train respiratory physicians. Many of his more than 50 trainees now occupy senior posts in the UK and around the world. At the same time he developed our current ideas about the causes of breathlessness, using an array of brilliantly original techniques. By 1968 he was the most 'chair-worthy' clinical academic in the UK without a chair, probably because of his outrageously frank answers to questions from selection committee members. But this did not deter the founding fathers of the new Canadian McMaster University School of Medicine in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1968, when they were looking for their first chairman of medicine. In an amazingly short time Moran proved to be a brilliant recruiter. He also brought almost all the local physicians of the 'town' on side. They found a generous, friendly and supportive chairman. The McMaster School of Medicine quickly consolidated and extended a worldwide reputation. He plunged with enthusiasm into the sporting opportunities available in Hamilton - cross-country skiing in the winter and cycling furiously in the summer.

Even before he went to Canada his friends and colleagues became aware of his progressively increasing mood swings, over periods of a few weeks. These gradually increased in severity and eventually reached the level of dangerous manic-depressive psychosis, which often needed hospital in-patient treatment, though when his illness allowed he continued his close association with the medical school. His disease was eventually brought under control, thanks to the efforts of several friends and psychiatrists on both sides of the Atlantic, with superb support from his wife Diana, and with the help of his four loving children. He wrote a frank and honest account of his illness in a book published by the BMA, entitled Not always on the level (London, British Medical Journal, 1988).

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and an officer of the Order of Canada. Some three years before he died Moran became aware of secondary deposits of colon cancer in his liver and lungs, but despite this he continued to travel and lecture around the world, visiting his many friends and colleagues. His life and achievements were celebrated by his family and friends in a memorial occasion at McMaster and later by a similar occasion at the Middlesex Hospital in London, where some 60 of his old students, colleagues and friends gathered to remember and celebrate the life of a remarkable man.

John Dickinson

(Volume XI, page 95)

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