Lives of the fellows

Edward Sydney Williams

b.7 October 1923 d.31 August 2015
BSc Lond(1950) MB BS(1957) PhD(1963) MRCP(1970) MD(1971) FRCP(1979) AKC FRCR

Edward Sydney Williams was director of the Institute of Nuclear Medicine, University of London, and a pioneer of nuclear medicine in the UK. He was born in Northwich, Cheshire, the son of Edward Charles Williams, a gardener. He attended a small rural elementary school and left at 14. During the Second World War, he was in the Home Guard from 1940 to 1943, and was then commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, where he carried out special duties in the UK and the East Indies. He was demobilised in November 1946.

He then studied physics and medicine at King’s College, London, gaining a BSc degree in 1950 and qualifying with the MB BS in 1957. He was a house surgeon at Middlesex Hospital and then a house physician at Chester City Hospital. From January 1959, he was a registrar at Middlesex Hospital, and a lecturer at the medical school there from October 1959 to June 1969.

In 1961 he was appointed as deputy director of the Institute of Nuclear Medicine, London, becoming director three years later. Here he initiated the MSc degree in nuclear medicine. He helped shape national and European legislation on the use of radioactive substances and was the first chairman of the Administration of Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee, which issues certificates to practitioners in the UK.

A lifelong mountaineer, he was a member of the Alpine Club for 50 years and visited the summit of three previously unclimbed peaks in Asia. He was also interested in high altitude physiology; he took charge of the science of an expedition to the Karakoram in 1956, a range of very high mountains northwest of the Himalayas, studying the causes of oedema and mountain sickness. He also studied the measurement of electrolytes at high altitude. In 1981, he was a member of the British Mount Kongur expedition in China.

He became a priest in the Anglican Church after completing a three-year ordination course. He was also interested in psychical research, and was a member of the Society of Psychical Research and the Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies. He enjoyed history, especially pre-Norman and Celtic British history. In later life he published a book of poetry Hearing silence (The Book Guild Ltd, 2011).

In 1958, he married Wendy Elizabeth Jean Kirby, a nurse. They had three sons and five grandchildren.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2015 351 5027 – accessed 30 October 2017; BNMS British Nuclear Medicine Society Prof Edward Sydney Williams, Nuclear Medicine Pioneer, Obituary – accessed 30 October 2017]

(Volume XII, page web)

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