Lives of the fellows

Anthony Francis Rickards

b.17 February 1945 d.28 May 2004
MB BS Lond(1968) MRCP(1971) FACC(1982) FRCP(1983) FESC(1988)

Anthony ‘Tony’ Rickards was a cardiologist at the Royal Brompton and National Heart and Chest hospitals. During his career he made a series of ground-breaking innovations, including a major advance in the technology of pacemakers, creating a device which, for the first time, allowed near-normal exercise capacity.

He was born in Cheshire, the son of Anthony Gerard Rickards, a pathologist in the Royal Air Force. Rickards was educated at Stonyhurst College, and then spent a year at the University of Grenoble in France, where he became fluent in French. He then studied medicine at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, qualifying in 1968. Whilst a student he became interested in computing, rapidly becoming an expert.

He held house posts at the Middlesex Hospital and then, from 1969 to 1970, he was a medical officer at the National Heart Hospital, where he was mentored by Aubrey Leatham and Edgar Sowton [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.462]. In 1974 he was a Wellcome senior research fellow. In 1975, he was appointed as a consultant at the National Heart Hospital, at the age of just 29.

In the late 1970s he began a register for all pacemaker patients. This was later extended to Eastern and Western Europe. Patients were also provided with a ‘passport’, carrying information about their devices, so that travel was possible throughout Europe.

In 1980 Rickards was the first person in the UK to perform a successful coronary angioplasty, and eight years later implanted the first coronary stent. In the 1980s he made and implanted the first pacemakers that could vary the pace of the heart. Early pacemakers stimulated the heart at a constant rate, rather than responding to the needs of the body by, for example, speeding up during exercise. Rickards introduced the first physiologically adaptable units.

One of his later inventions was a mobile phone with which a patient could record an electrocardiogram and transmit it to a specialist centre for immediate diagnosis.

In 1987 he was co-founder of the CABRI project (Coronary Angioplasty vs Bypass Revascularisation Investigation), a major European trial of the management of coronary artery disease by angioplasty or surgery.

He was chairman and co-founder of the Central Cardiac Audit Database, which collects data on cardiac events, such as admissions for myocardial infarction, and adult and paediatric cardiac surgery, from hospitals in England and Wales.

Rickards regularly contributed to peer-reviewed journals, and wrote on almost every branch of cardiology, including basic physiology, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, mitral and aortic valve disease, congenital cardiac disease, angioplasty and drug therapy.

Outside medicine, he was interested in golf, skiing, cars and boats. He was a master sailor and navigator, and owned a series of yachts. He married Trisha Lesley Weeks in 1970 and they had two daughters. He died suddenly.

RCP editor

[The Times 24 June 2004; Brit.med.J.,2004 329 234; Heart Rhythm Society www.hrsonline.org/news/ep-history/notable-figures/anthonyrickards.cfm – accessed 25 June 2012]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List