Lives of the fellows

Borje Edgar Christopher Nordin

b.14 March 1920 d.27 October 2014
MB BS Lond(1950) MD(1952) MRCP(1954) PhD(1960) FRCP(1966) FRACP AO(2007)

Christopher Nordin was a pioneering figure in bone metabolism research, who established the link between vitamin D and calcium deficiency and osteoporosis. He was born in London, the son of Helge Edgar Eugene Borje Nordin, a Swedish-Finnish businessman, and Katharine Mary Marshall Nordin née Wright, the English daughter of a professor of mathematics. He was educated at Wykeham House and then St George’s, Harpenden.

During the Second World War he served as a translator to the British Legation in Stockholm. In 1945 he began studying medicine at University College London, where he had a particular interest in physiology and physical chemistry, and was president of the medical student society. He qualified in 1950.

He held junior posts at University College, Colindale, West Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals. In 1950 he was briefly a junior assistant editor at The Lancet, but was not taken on to the permanent staff.

From 1952 to 1954 he was a senior house officer at Hammersmith Hospital, and then became a registrar there to John McMichael [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.341]. He spent a year, from 1955 to 1956, as a visiting fellow at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York working with Robert Loeb [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.298].

From 1957 to 1960 he was a lecturer in the department of medicine at the University of Glasgow. He was then a senior lecturer and consultant physician at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.

From 1964 he was director of the Medical Research Council’s newly-formed mineral metabolism unit at Leeds, as well as a consultant physician at the General Infirmary in Leeds. In 1981 Nordin moved to South Australia as a senior research fellow at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and continued his research work for another three decades.

It was when he was at Hammersmith that he began to study bone metabolism. He hypothesised that calcium deficiency was the cause of osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency caused osteomalacia. At the time, it was thought protein deficiency led to osteoporosis. Nordin’s ideas eventually revolutionised the specialty. He also invented most of the basic tests in the field, including densitometry, biopsy tissue studies and blood calcium ratios.

Nordin founded what is now the European Calcified Tissue Society and, while in Leeds, established the journal Calcified Tissue International. During his career, he published more than 500 papers, edited numerous chapters and wrote nine books. He submitted his last paper in 2013, in his nineties.

He was awarded the Frederic C Bartter award of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research in 1998, and in 2007 he was made an officer of the Order of Australia.

He was elected to the fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 1966. At that time he listed skiing, sailing, riding, music and ‘of course’ reading as his interests. He was multilingual; he could speak Swedish, German and French. He was a devout Quaker for many years.

In 1958 he married Edith Mary Cecil. They had two daughters and a son. He married for a second time, to Mary, and had a son and daughter.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2015 350 1733 – accessed 7 December 2016; University of Leeds Secretariat Professor B E C Nordin AO, MD, PhD, DSc, FRCP – accessed 7 December 2016; SA Pathology Home News Vale Professor B E Christopher Nordin AO, MD FRCO FRACO DSc 13 November 2014,+md+frcp+fracp+dsc – accessed 7 December 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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