Lives of the fellows

John Andrew Savin

b.10 January 1935 d.29 July 2006
BA Cantab(1956) MB BChir(1960) DIH(1964) MRCP(1965) MRCP Edin(1973) MD(1978) FRCP(1978) FRCP Edin(1979)

John Savin was a consultant dermatologist at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. He was born in London, where his father, Lewis Herbert Savin, was an ophthalmic surgeon. He was educated at Epsom College, where he was an entrance scholar, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He then went to St Thomas’ for his clinical studies.

He was a medical officer in the Royal Navy, and subsequently trained in dermatology in London, with resident posts at St George’s, St Thomas’ and St John’s Hospital for Diseases of the Skin, working under Charles D Calnan, Robert Meara [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.388], Stephen Gold, Geoffrey Dowling [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.163] and Hugh John Wallace [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.520].

In 1971 he was appointed as a consultant dermatologist in Edinburgh and a senior lecturer at the medical school. He was an excellent diagnostician, and a conscientious, efficient consultant.

He was also known for his command of English, and was a master of prose and grammar. He wrote around 200 papers, on a variety of topics. His first, on venereal infection, was written when he was in the Navy (‘The rhythm of venereal infection in a ship’s company’ J R Nav Med Serv. 1963;49:203-7). He co-wrote seven books, including the textbook Clinical dermatology (Blackwell scientific, 1989). He became a joint editor of Recent advances in dermatology and was an associate editor of the British Journal of Dermatology. In his last decade he wrote many historical articles, three winning prizes in the USA.

He became interested in the physiology of itching and scratching, and, in 1973, he was the first to show, with his co-authors, that humans scratch during the different phases of sleep (‘Scratching during sleep’ Lancet 1973 Aug 11;2(7824):296-7). Late in his career he developed an interest in applied genetics and, with Celia Moss, wrote the well-received Dermatology and the new genetics (Oxford, Blackwell Science, 1995).

In 1988 he was elected president of the dermatological section of the Royal Society of Medicine and, in 1992, president of the Dowling Club. But he will probably be most remembered by his colleagues for his service to the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD). In 1993 he was the first elected president of the association and during his tenure the headquarters – in Fitzroy square – was acquired. Savin later went on to become a postgraduate training adviser to BAD (from 1994 to 1998), and wrote a series of clear and succinct patient information leaflets for the association.

He was made an honorary member of BAD and was a corresponding member of the Société Française de Dermatologie and an honorary member of the Canadian Dermatology Association.

Outside medicine, he was a keen golfer, and was captain of the Royal Colleges’ Golf Club in 2005.

In 1959 he married Patricia Margaret Steel, the daughter of a naval officer. They had two sons and two daughters. Savin died of cancer of the bile duct, and was survived by his wife, two daughters, Poppy and Rosie, and two sons, William and Charlie.

RCP editor

[Brit.med.J., 2006 333 1176; The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh www.rcpe.ac.uk/obituary/dr-john-andrew-savin-frcp-edin – accessed 8 February 2014]

(Volume XII, page web)

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