b.4 March 1955 d.18 August 2007
BM BCh Oxon(1980) PhD(1992) FRCP(1995) FRCPCH(1997)
Robert Alexander Harrison Surtees was professor of paediatric neurology and head of the neurosciences unit at University College London’s Institute of Child Health. He studied medicine at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, as an open exhibitioner and qualified BM BCh in 1980. He trained at Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham and Manchester, and then, in 1986, joined the Institute of Child Health, initially as a Wellcome Trust lecturer.
His research for his PhD was on adenosylmethionine deficiency and demyelination. He went on to develop biochemical methods for measuring metabolites in body fluids, particularly cerebrospinal fluid, to increase our understanding of demyelination in inborn errors of vitamin B12 and folate metabolism, and disordered neurotransmission in childhood movement disorders. He published more than 80 papers. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the inherited metabolic disorders and an extraordinary memory for the details of even the most esoteric and obscure conditions. He had a retiring manner and yet was generally considered to be the British authority in his field.
He was an honorary consultant neurologist at the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, where he specialised in paediatric movement disorders and neurometabolic diseases. His case presentations and discussions were renowned for their brilliance and clarity.
He died suddenly and unexpectedly, and was greatly missed by his colleagues worldwide. He was survived by his wife, Diane, and sons Alexander and George.
[BMJ 2008 336 103]
(Volume XII, page web)
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