Lives of the fellows

Robert Neilson Johnston

b.13 December 1921 d.31 October 2010
MB ChB Aberd(1943) MRCP(1949) MD(1953) MRCP Edin(1960) FRCP Edin(1963) FRCP(1972)

Robert Neilson Johnston was a consultant chest physician in Dundee. He was born in Buluwayo, in what was then called Southern Rhodesia, where his father William Watson Johnston, a minister, and mother, Mary née Young, were missionaries. Educated at Aberdeen Grammar School, he studied medicine at Aberdeen University and the Royal Infirmary.

After qualifying in 1943, he joined the RAMC and served in West Africa where he became experienced in dealing with patients suffering from tuberculosis. This developed his interest in respiratory medicine and, when he was demobilised, he returned to the UK to train, firstly back in Aberdeen from 1946 to 1947 and then at the Royal Northern Hospital in Inverness the next year. In 1949 he joined the staff of the Brompton Hospital in London and, following this, he went to New York for further training at the Bellevue Hospital.

Obtaining his MD in 1953, he returned to the UK for further experience at the Brompton and Hammersmith hospitals before being appointed a consultant chest physician to the Dundee and Arbroath district and lecturer in respiratory diseases at the University of Dundee.

With the decline in the incidence of tuberculosis, his work became more focussed on the treatment of asthma and smoking related pulmonary disorders. He helped to plan the future needs of a respiratory service for Scotland with Sir John Crofton [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] and was president of the Scottish Thoracic Society.

A keen gardener, he also enjoyed travelling and often took a caravan with his family.

In 1964, he married Elizabeth Mary née Semple, the daughter of Robert, a physician, she was his second wife. He retired in 1985 and, when he died unexpectedly while convalescing after a colon cancer resection, Elizabeth survived him together with a son and two daughters and seven grandchildren.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2011 342 2845; Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh - both accessed 2 July 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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