Lives of the fellows

Evan Anthony Jones

b.5 April 1938 d.23 January 2012
BSc Birm(1959) MB ChB(1962) LRCP MRCS(1962) MRCP(1965) MD(1969) FRCP(1979) DSc(1991)

Evan Anthony (‘Tony’) Jones was chief of hepatology at the Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam. He was born in Yeovil, Somerset. His father, Evan Arthur Jones, an inspector with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, was from south Wales; his mother was a London Welsh woman. The family usually holidayed in Wales or on the Dorset coast. For his secondary education Tony boarded at Crewkerne Grammar School, about nine miles from Yeovil. He was an able pupil, a keen sportsman and a musician (he played piano and viola, and was a member of the choral society).

In 1956 he entered Birmingham Medical School. After he won the anatomy prize in 1957, the professor of anatomy, Sir Solly Zuckerman [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.612] (later Lord Zuckerman and chief scientific adviser to the Government) chose him as one of his ‘research students’. In 1959 Tony graduated with a first class BSc degree in anatomical studies and also published his first paper – ‘Number of spermatogonia after X-irradiation of the adult rat’ Int J Radiat Biol 1960 Apr;2:157-70. He qualified in 1962, having collected several prizes and scholarships along the way.

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital he was house physician to Carey Smallwood [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.409] and Clifford Hawkins [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.227] (a gastroenterologist) and house surgeon to A L d’Abreu and Geoffrey Slaney. He moved to Warwick in 1963 to work with Stephen Whittaker [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.595], who was renowned for the excellence of the clinical training of his junior staff. After getting his MRCP in 1965, Tony moved to Hammersmith Hospital and the Postgraduate Medical School as house physician on Chris Booth’s [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] gastrointestinal unit.

The following year he was awarded an MRC clinical research fellowship and transferred to Sheila Sherlock’s [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.514] liver unit at the Royal Free Hospital as an honorary assistant lecturer. Initially he joined Tony Tavill and Dick Smallwood in a small research group working on urea and albumin kinetics. It was headed by Victor Rosenoer, who departed for Boston in 1967. Tony continued working on urea and albumin. He was one of the first to show increased albumin synthesis in patients with autoimmune hepatitis treated with corticosteroids, and was awarded a gold medal by the University of Birmingham for his MD thesis on ‘Quantitative studies of nitrogen metabolism in vivo using carbon-labelled carbonate and urea’.

Following his appointment as a lecturer at the Royal Free, Tony spent a year’s leave of absence (from 1969 to 1970) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland; there he worked with Nathaniel Berlin (on bilirubin metabolism) and Thomas Waldmann (on IgG transport). He returned to the Royal Free, but in 1972 moved to the University of Liverpool as a senior lecturer in medicine, working with David Price Evans, Richard McConnell and David Weatherall. However, two years later he went back to NIH as a senior visiting scientist in a newly-created liver diseases section headed by Paul Berk. Berk moved to New York in 1977 and Tony ran the section for the next 15 years. He was elected FRCP in 1979.

During his directorship the section became a major centre for the study of the liver and its diseases. Many aspiring young hepatologists trained with Tony and some more senior visiting scientists also joined the group. He developed a particular interest in the patho-physiology and therapy of hepatic encephalopathy, believing that the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), played an important role in its development, and with the itch and fatigue associated with liver disease. In 1991 the University of Birmingham awarded him a DSc for his work on the GABA-A receptor complex in hepatic encephalopathy.

Tony wrote or co-authored more than 300 original publications, reviews and chapters on liver disease – and served on many editorial boards, including those of Hepatology, Gastroenterology and the Journal of Hepatology. In 1992 Tony left NIH because he was unhappy about the effect that certain administrative changes within the division of digestive diseases and nutrition would have on his own role as chief of the liver disease section. He returned to the UK and the following year, to the surprise of his friends, became a senior medical officer in the licensing division of the Department of Health’s Medicines Control Agency. With others he made recommendations on the registration of new drugs used in managing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Tony’s friends were less surprised when, in 1995, he was appointed chief of hepatology at the Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, a position he held until he retired in 2003. In ‘semi-retirement’ he continued to write reviews and book chapters, and serve as a consultant for Hepatology, while devoting his research energy to mechanisms of encephalopathy in liver disease. From 1999 to 2004 he was an international adviser to the RCP.

When discussing clinical matters and research Tony was talkative and sometimes animated, but for the most part he was extraordinarily taciturn and conversations tended to be one directional. He never talked about himself, his family or his background. Tony met his wife Rosemary in London in 1966. They chose to keep their public and private lives separate. In 2006 they moved to Winchester and enjoyed a quiet life there.

On 17 January 2012 Tony had lunch in London with some old friends from Royal Free days. He seemed in good health. Six days later he went out for a walk. On the way home, quite unexpectedly, he collapsed and died. Appropriately his funeral was a very private affair.

Neil McIntyre

[References: American Association for the Study of Liver Disease – accessed 26 September 2013]

(Volume XII, page web)

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