Lives of the fellows

Robert Crowe Curran

b.28 July 1921 d.5 September 2006
MB ChB Glasg(1943) MD(1956) MRCP(1959) FRSE(1962) FRCPath(1965) FRCP(1969)

Robert Crowe Curran was Leith Professor of Pathology at the University of Birmingham. He was born in Wishaw, Scotland, the son of John Hamilton Curran, a foreman in a steel works, and Sarah Carson Curran née Crowe, the daughter of a railway station master, who was originally from Ballymena in County Antrim. The couple had four sons. Robert’s brother, Samuel Crowe Curran (who was eventually knighted) also had a distinguished career, as a physicist and the first principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, the first of the new technical universities in the UK. Robert was educated at Wishaw High School, where he was an athletics champion, and then went on to study medicine in Glasgow. He qualified in 1943 and then held house posts at the Royal and Western Infirmaries, Glasgow.

From 1945 to 1947 he was a medical officer at the Royal Army Medical Corps in India.

Following his demobilisation, he returned to the university department of pathology at Glasgow, as a lecturer. In 1955 he was appointed as a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield and as an honorary consultant at the United Sheffield Hospitals. He gained his MD in 1956. From 1958 to 1966 he was professor of pathology and an honorary consultant at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, where he continued his experimental work on silicosis. From 1966 he was Leith Professor of Pathology at Birmingham.

He was an early exponent of the use of radioactive isotopes in experimental pathology, and was quick to see the potential of the electron microscope, as well as the application of immunohistological techniques in the study of lymphomas. He was an early pioneer in the UK of the development of SNOP (systematised nomenclature of pathology) coding of diagnostic histopathology data: SNOP was designed to describe pathological specimens according to their morphology and anatomy.

He wrote papers on diseases of the connective tissues, among other subjects, and authored an influential textbook, Colour atlas of histopathology (London, Baillière, Tindall & Cassell, 1996), illustrated with his own photomicrographs (or photographs taken through a microscope).

He was president of the Royal College of Pathologists between 1981 and 1984. He also represented the college on the Conference of Royal Colleges and Faculties, and was secretary of the Conference.

Outside medicine, he was interested in electronics, photography, dancing, ornithology, watching football and playing golf.

In 1947 he married Margaret Marion Park, the daughter of a mercantile assistant. They had one son, Andrew, and one daughter, Marjorie.

RCP editor

(Volume XII, page web)

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