Lives of the fellows

Michael Anthony Horton

b.6 May 1948 d.11 April 2010
BSc Lond(1969) MB BS(1972) MRCP(1975) MRCPath(1987) FRCPath(1991) FRCP(1996)

Michael Anthony Horton was professor of medicine at University College London and a world expert in bone research and the emerging field of nanomedicine. Born in London, he was the son of John Anthony Guy Horton, a GP, and his wife, Margaret Louisa née Jenkins, who was a nurse. A medical family, his brother was also medically qualified. Educated at Oundle School, he studied medicine at London University and St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College, specialising in haematology. Qualifying in 1972, he did house jobs at Whipps Cross Hospital the following year and then returned to Bart’s where he worked from 1974 to 1976, progressing to become registrar in haematology. He then spent three years as a lecturer and Medical Research Council (MRC) training fellow at Barts and University College London, before being appointed senior lecturer in haematology and consultant haematologist in 1978 at the young age of 29.

On a year’s sabbatical in 1983, he did research in molecular biology at the MRC Cambridge laboratories, Genentec in San Francisco and Meiki University in Japan. In Cambridge and the US, he investigated potential clinical use of antibodies against the main adhesion protein of bone-resorbing cells. On his return to Bart’s the following year, he became principal scientist and head of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund haemopoiesis research group.

Taking up the chair of medicine at University College London in 1995, he commenced to set up the bone and mineral centre and the Sackler Institute of Musculoskeletal Research. Recognised internationally for his work on the molecular cell biology of healthy and diseased skeletal tissues, his research was to reveal new methods of analysing and controlling bone disease and was particularly relevant in providing anti-osteoporotic treatment. His enthusiasm for new technologies led him to carry out some of the earliest laser scanning confocal microscopy studies of bone cells, which laid the foundations for his discovery of trafficking of bone material bone-resorbing cells in 1997.

One of his most important contributions was to co-found the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN) in 2001 where he served as director for life sciences until his retirement. It was his work with the atomic force microscope in combination with confocal microscopy techniques which led him into the rapidly expanding field of nanomedicine. At the LCN he worked across and beyond the traditional boundaries of disciplines, gathering teams including chemists, engineers and physicists. Nationally and internationally he was well known in the new discipline and this led to the development of a spin-out consulting company, Bio-Nano Consulting, which was funded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the London Development Agency. He was also co-director of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration in Nanotechnology from 2002 to 2007.

He contributed over 150 scientific papers to the literature and co-edited four books on topics including haematology, immunology, and mineral metabolism.

In 1968 he married Susan Geraldine née Taylor. She became a teacher and magistrate and they had a son and daughter. Retiring in 2008, he gave up management of the LCN to retain an advisory position and returned to live in Northumberland to pursue his enthusiasm for gardening. When he died, ironically of a haematological malignancy, he was survived by Susan, their children Benjamin and Rachel and six grandchildren.

RCP editor

[University College London news; The Daily Telegraph - both accessed 8 June 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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