Lives of the fellows

Philip Alexander Poole-Wilson

b.26 April 1943 d.4 March 2009
MB BChir Cantab(1968) BA(1969) MRCP(1970) MD(1975) FRCP(1983) FESC(1988) MA(1991) FACC(1992) FMedSci(1998)

“Cardiology has been my hobby,” said Philip Poole-Wilson at his retirement dinner in October 2008 and it remained so until his unexpected and premature death five months later. As emeritus professor of cardiology at Imperial College, London, he witnessed and participated in the development of his specialty over a 40 year period. Philip was wholly committed to cardiac science and infused research with his unique brand of enthusiasm and curiosity. Along with his true interest in research into heart failure, he was equally committed to his cardiac clinic and to consultation with patients.

Philip Poole-Wilson was born in London, whilst his father, Denis Smith Poole-Wilson, later to become an eminent urological surgeon in Manchester, was away in the RAMC with the 8th Army. His mother, Monique Michelle Poole-Wilson, was partly French and initially during the war served as an army driver. He was educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge, entering as a major scholar to read maths and physics, then natural sciences – physics, maths and physiology. At the end of his third year, he changed to medicine, extending his Cambridge days, and gaining an exhibition to St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, where in 1968 he qualified MB BChir.

His early research was on molecular exchange at cell membranes and then into the biochemical basis of heart muscle contraction. He held a registrar and then a lecturer appointment at St Thomas’ and then, in 1973, he won a British-American Travelling Fellowship to UCLA in California, where he studied potassium and pH in cardiac myocytes. In 1976, he was appointed senior lecturer at the Cardiothoracic Institute and honorary consultant physician at the National Heart Hospital. In 1982, he was given a personal chair by London University and in 1988 he succeeded Peter Harris [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] as British Heart Foundation Simon Marks professor of cardiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College.

He soon established a reputation for total probity in his scientific and clinical work. His opinions were sought and widely respected. He was a powerful debater. He identified the prevalence of heart failure in the community and the scope for its prevention.

Poole-Wilson received many honours, including the gold medal of the European Society of Cardiology, the Prix Europe et Médecine from L'Institut des Sciences de la Santé of Paris, and the Mackenzie medal of the British Cardiovascular Society, 2007. He was a councillor of the Royal College of Physicians. His stature was such that, from 1994 to 1996, he was president of the European Society of Cardiology and, from 2003 to 2004, president of the World Heart Federation. These appointments led him to become involved in the prevention of heart disease in developing countries.

He was a most personable man and he did not let his high intelligence impede friendships and collaborative ventures. He was a gentle man, seeing the best in every individual, logical and generous, and always good humoured. He will be sadly missed as an original thinker, a catalyst for productive research and a friend of very many. His charisma led so many to his fold.

He leaves his wife, Mary née Tattersall, who is an experienced guide and supporter of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, two sons (William and Michael) and a daughter (Oenone).

Michael Oliver

[Brit.med.J.,2009 338 1013; The Times 13 March 2009; The Independent 16 March 2009; The Daily Telegraph 24 March 2009; The Guardian 8 April 2009]

(Volume XII, page web)

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