Lives of the fellows

Ian McLean Baird

b.23 November 1923 d.20 April 2014
MB ChB St And(1945) MD(1957) MRCP(1950) FRCP (1973)

Ian McLean Baird was a consultant physician at the West Middlesex Hospital who became a well-known expert on the prevention and treatment of obesity. Born in Glasgow, he was the son of David McLean Baird, a solicitor, and his wife Pearl née Rose, whose father Donald was the managing director of Fife Brickworks. He attended Castlehill Preparatory School and Bellbaxter School, both in Cupar, Fife, and then studied medicine at St Andrews University and the Dundee Royal Infirmary. Qualifying in 1945, he spent a year as a house physician at the Royal Infirmary, followed by two years at Salford Royal Infirmary as a resident medical officer.

In 1948 he moved to Sheffield as resident medical officer and stayed for six years until he was appointed Leverhulme research fellow at the Royal College of Physicians and a lecturer in pharmacology at the University of Sheffield. From 1958 onwards he was consultant physician to the Barnsley group of hospitals, during which time he spent a year (1960) in the USA as Wellcome Trust Travelling Fellow at Harvard University in Boston. Moving to London in 1965, he was appointed consultant physician to the medical department and the clinical pharmacology unit at the West Middlesex Hospital and clinical tutor to the Postgraduate Medical Federation of London University.

It was when he began at the Middlesex that he saw the need for an organisation to investigate the prevention and treatment of obesity and, with several others, proceeded to found the Obesity Association. The association organised the first national meeting on the subject which was held at the Royal Society of Medicine and Baird edited the proceedings, which were published as a monograph in 1968. Sadly the association fell victim to internal wrangling, and many of the founders, including Baird, resigned. Instead he set up a metabolic ward at the hospital and initiated a research project with Allan Howard at Cambridge University to investigate an effective low calorie diet. They eventually came up with a 330 calories diet which was both safe and successful and it was commercially marketed as the ‘Cambridge diet’. Over 30 years later, the diet is still in use successfully throughout the world.

Among other contributions he was appointed treasurer to the Food Education Society in 1970 and later became chairman. For many years he was a spokesman for the British Heart Foundation during which time he actively promoted the benefits of a daily aspirin. He published widely, often on nutrition- related topics. On retiring in 1989 he continued to work with various charities, including the Nutrition Research Foundation (which he had himself established). In his time he was also chairman of the Yorkshire branch of the YMCA and president of the Yorkshire Scottish Society.

A true Scotsman who retained a pleasant Scottish accent all his life, he enjoyed playing golf, sailing and fishing. He also collected antique silver and, a voracious reader, made a point of paying a weekly visit to Foyles Bookshop in London. In his late eighties he still enjoyed a trip sea fishing in Guernsey with his daughter.

In 1948 he married Ivy née Hayhurst, who was the daughter of James Hayhurst an engineer. Sadly his wife was involved in a dreadful car accident in the 1960’s and never made a full recovery. They travelled extensively however, and purchased a holiday apartment in Florida near Fort Lauderdale, where they spent winter holidays. His son Neil predeceased him in 1997 and Ivy died in 2008. When he died, aged 90, he was survived by his daughter, Fiona Russell.

RCP editor

[Dr Ian McLean Baird; a pioneer in obesity research - accessed 30 June 2016]


(Volume XII, page web)

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