Lives of the fellows

William Halstead Taylor

b.26 April 1924 d.23 February 2008
BA Oxon(1946) BM BCh(1948) MRCP(1950) DM(1957) FRCP(1971)

William Halstead Taylor ('Bill') was a pathologist at the United Liverpool Hospitals. In the late 1950s he transformed the chemical pathology laboratory services at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary (LRI) and established an innovative metabolic unit which was to vastly improve the quality of life for countless patients.

Born in Wardle, Lancashire, he was the son of Thomas Halstead Taylor, a company director, and his wife, Alice May, who was the daughter of William Hallett. Educated at Manchester Grammar School, he studied medicine at Oxford University and the Radcliffe Infirmary. After qualifying in 1948, he did house jobs at the Postgraduate Medical School, London, the Radcliffe Hospital, and Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases.

In 1949 he was appointed a lecturer in the department of clinical biochemistry at the University of Oxford, a post he held for 10 years. At St Peter's College he was official fellow and tutor in natural science from 1957 to 1959. He then moved to Liverpool, becoming consultant chemical pathologist to the United Liverpool Hospitals and director of studies at the university.

When he started in Liverpool, he immediately began the process of transforming the chemical pathology laboratory services at the LRI, which, at that time, were run by a small number of people in cockroach infested basements. Outdated techniques were quickly replaced, in spite of some opposition from the clinical staff, and the use of radioactive tracers to measure hormones and steroids was introduced. He also established an innovative single room ward, the metabolic unit, in order to study metabolic balance. Rapidly developing an international reputation, patients travelled far to consult him. As an expert in the field, he was asked by the government of the day to advise on a national policy on fluoridation of the water supply. He published papers on fluid and electrolyte balance in disease, metabolic coma and proteolysis by gastric juice and wrote the seminal book of the 1960s on his subject Fluid therapy and disorders of electrolyte balance (Oxford, Blackwell, 1965).

After he retired in 1989, he went to work in an outreach clinic for local diabetes/endocrine services run by Ali Khaleeli, then a newly appointed consultant endocrinologist, at Halton General Hospital in Runcorn. The collaboration was very fruitful. They made some groundbreaking discoveries on the relationship between diabetes and primary hyperparathyroidism. Further important results were achieved using a new glucose tolerance test and Taylor's final paper on this topic was published a year before his death when he was well into his 80s.

A music lover, he sang with the Bach Choir at Oxford and played the violin in the Liverpool University orchestra. He enjoyed tennis and fly fishing and continued to play cricket (a great enthusiasm) against younger colleagues for many years. Sculpture was another relaxation.

In 1950 he married June Helen née Thorniley, having proposed to her at a cricket match. Her father, Tom Edward, was a merchant convertor. They had a son and three daughters. When he died, he was survived by June, their four children and 10 grandchildren. Both subsequent generations continued the medical tradition.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2009 339 5475]

(Volume XII, page web)

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