Lives of the fellows

John Higginson

b.16 October 1922 d.25 September 2013
BA Dublin(1945) MB(1946) MRCP(1949) MD(1961) FRCP(1971)

John Higginson was the first director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the son of William Higginson, a company director, and Ellen Higginson née Rogers, the daughter of a clergyman. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and then Trinity College, Dublin.

From 1947 to 1948 he was an assistant in bacteriology and serology to Carl Browning at the University of Glasgow. He was then an assistant in pathology to Daniel Fowler Cappell [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.88], also in Glasgow.

From 1950 to 1958 he was a pathologist at the South African Institute for Medical Research and senior pathologist in charge of the morbid anatomy department, Baragwanath Non-European Hospital, Johannesburg. From 1952 to 1958 he was head of the cancer registry at the South African Institute for Medical Research.

In 1958 he was appointed as an associate professor of pathology at Kansas University Medical Center where, in 1961, the American Cancer Society created a chair of geographical pathology of cancer, to which Higginson was appointed.

In July 1966 he became the first director of IARC, based in Lyons, France, and played an important role in shaping the new agency, with his vision for interdisciplinary research including epidemiology, biostatistics and laboratory sciences. He retired in 1981.

His research focused on the role of environmental factors in the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

He served on the committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institutes of Health in the USA, as well as the Union for International Cancer Control. He was elected to the fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 1971.

In 1949 he married Nan McKee, the daughter of a businessman, legislator and commissioner for Northern Rhodesia. They had two daughters, Jacqueline and Wendy.

RCP editor

[Medical News 4 March 1966; International Agency for Research on Cancer World Health Organization 4 October 2013 John Higginson (1922-2013) www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/HigginsonObituaryWeb_DIR.pdf – accessed 29 October 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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