Lives of the fellows

Arthur Warriner Williams

b.28 August 1905 d.2 September 2005
CBE(1961) BA Cantab(1926) MRCS LRCP(1929) DTM&H(1931) MB(1931) MD(1938) MRCP(1946) FRCP(1955)

Arthur Williams played a significant role in the development of medicine and medical education in East Africa. He was born in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, the son of George James Williams and Joanna Williams née Meyler. His father was a single-handed country GP in the days when home visits to outlying hill farms were made by horse and trap across the fells. Williams was educated at Oundle School and then went on to St John’s College, Cambridge, and Westminster Hospital, qualifying with the conjoint diploma in 1929.

He held house posts at Westminster Hospital, and gained his diploma in tropical medicine in 1931. In the same year he joined the Colonial Medical Service and was sent to Uganda as a government medical officer, initially in posts in remote areas. He then began work at Mulago Hospital, Kampala, where he developed an increasing interest in medical education, and was appointed as a lecturer in medicine and therapeutics. Between 1947 and 1949 he worked in neighbouring Tanganyika, as a medical specialist in Dar es Salaam.

In 1949 he returned to Uganda and was appointed as medical superintendant and physician at Mulago Hospital. During this period he helped initiate a scheme for a new 900-bed hospital. Two years later, in 1951, he became head of the department of medicine at Makerere University College, later becoming its first professor of medicine. He was a member of the Uganda Medical Board, a consultant physician to the Ugandan government, a member of the council of the University College of East Africa and, in 1957, a founder member and president of the Association of Physicians of East Africa. He fostered close links with medical schools in the UK.

His main research interests were in heart disease and pulmonary tuberculosis. He was largely responsible for initiating and organising the Medical Research Council’s East African tuberculosis chemotherapy trials.

In 1961 he was awarded a CBE for his services to medicine in Uganda and returned to England, becoming director of postgraduate medical studies at Oxford. He was a founder fellow of St Cross College and, among his many commitments, was on committees advising the government of Tanganyika on the future of its health services and on low-priced books for developing countries. He finally retired in 1971 and moved to Northumberland.

Outside medicine, Williams was interested in natural history, small boat sailing and book binding. In 1932 he married Florence Mary McConnell (‘Molly’), a nurse at Westminster Hospital and the daughter of a clerk in holy orders. They had three sons and two daughters, all of whom grew up and were educated in Uganda and Kenya. One of his sons, Martin James Williams, also became a fellow of the RCP.

RCP editor

[Oxford Medical School Gazette, Trinity Term, 1962, p.102-3; The Times 1 October 2005; Brit.med.J., 2005 331 1085]

(Volume XII, page web)

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