Lives of the fellows

Arthur Robert Blowers

b.17 August 1915 d.17 December 2004
MRCS LRCP(1940) MB BS Lond(1946) MD(1950) Dip Bact Lond(1951) MRCP(1963) FRCPath(1963) FRCP(1970)

Arthur Robert Blowers was a leading medical microbiologist and a pioneer of hospital infection control. He was born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, the son of Arthur Robert Blowers, a printer, and his wife, Edith née Swan, the daughter of an engineer. He was educated at St Albans School, and then studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital, London.

At the start of the Second World War, he held house posts at Middlesex Hospital and at Tindal House Emergency Hospital, Aylesbury. From 1941, he served in the RAMC, training in blood transfusion under L E H Whitby [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.444] and then taking command of No 4 Field Transfusion Unit. On D-Day he was on the Normandy beaches, treating some of the wounded. He served through the European campaign and was one of the first doctors to enter the concentration camps following their liberation.

Following his demobilisation, he returned to London to train as a pathologist at the Bland Sutton Institute, Middlesex Hospital, and at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. From 1947 to 1949, he was an assistant bacteriologist at University College Hospital to Joan Stokes [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]. He was then appointed to the Staphylococcus Reference Library at the Central Public Health Laboratory, Colindale. It was here he developed his interest in hospital infection. In 1951 he became director of the Public Health Laboratory in Middlesborough and honorary pathologist to the South Teesside Hospital Group.

From the mid-1950s, he wrote a series of influential publications on the prevention of hospital infection, particularly following surgery, including papers on the sterilisation of blankets, the design of surgical clothing and of operating theatres. In 1960 he produced, with Sir Robert Williams [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, web], L P Garrod [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.203] and R A Shooter Hospital infection. Causes and prevention (London, Lloyd-Luke Medical Books), which became the standard textbook on infection control for nearly 20 years. In 1959, he was a key member of the Ministry of Health working group that produced the report Staphylococcal infections in hospital (London, HMSO).

From 1967 to 1969 he was seconded to Makerere University College, Uganda, as professor of medical microbiology. He taught undergraduates and postgraduates, and helped develop training programmes for medical laboratory technicians throughout East Africa.

In 1970, he returned to the UK, as head of the division of hospital infection at the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Clinical Research Centre, Northwick Park Hospital, London. He was secretary of the MRC committee on hospital infection. From 1973 to 1977 he served as registrar of the Royal College of Pathologists. He retired from clinical practice in 1977.

In 1941 he married Eva Gethin née Hockey, known as ‘Geth’, whom he had met at the Middlesex Hospital.

RCP editor

[The Bulletin of the Royal College of Pathologists 130: April 2005, p.52-53;, 2005 330 482]

(Volume XII, page web)

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