Lives of the fellows

John Richard Batchelor

b.4 October 1931 d.21 December 2015
MRCS LRCP(1955) BChir Cantab(1956) MB(1957) MD(1965) FRCPath(1991) FRCP(1995)

Richard Batchelor was an internationally-renowned immunologist and immunogeneticist who played a significant role in the development of transplantation. He was born in Woking, Surrey, the son of Basil William Batchelor, a businessman, and Clare Esme Batchelor. He was educated at Marlborough College and then Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Guy’s Medical School.

He qualified in 1955, held house posts at Pembury Hospital and then carried out his National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps. His subsequent career was divided into three major periods. First, he was a research fellow, then a lecturer and senior lecturer in the department of pathology at Guy’s Medical School. His mentor during this period was the pioneering mouse immunogeneticist, Peter Gorer.

The second phase of his career was as director of the Blond McIndoe Research Centre at East Grinstead, housed within Queen Victoria Hospital. This unit was created to develop techniques to treat burn victims during the Second World War. The use of skin grafts from a third party individual led to a research programme in the immunology of transplantation, which Richard led with great distinction for 12 years until 1979.

The third and final phase of his career was at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital. He was initially appointed as professor of tissue immunology, and then, three years later, became professor and head of the department of immunology, succeeding Peter Lachmann and John Humphrey [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.230]. He retired from this position after a further 12 years, in 1994.

Richard also held a range of offices with external agencies, both funding bodies and professional societies. These included serving on boards of the Medical Research Council, the scientific committee of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council and the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust. He was a longstanding member of the council of the nomenclature committee for the HLA (human leukocyte antigen) system, and served as president of the British Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, and of the British Transplantation Society. In addition to all this, Richard was for many years one the lead editors of the major international journal of transplantation, known simply as Transplantation. All of these achievements were capped by his election as president of the international Transplantation Society in 1988.

While this catalogue of achievements captures his material contributions to medical science, it does not begin to capture the remarkable qualities that marked Richard out amongst his peers. In the best possible sense he was a gentleman, charming, erudite and gracious. I got to know him best under unusual circumstances, namely gazing down a bifocal microscope for hours on end as we transplanted numerous rat kidneys in a model that shed important insights into the cellular mechanisms that trigger transplant rejection. During these lengthy procedures we discussed most matters pertaining to life, death and the universe! This revealed Richard’s breadth of knowledge, wisdom and ability to pass on advice in a manner that was subtle, life enhancing and never oppressive. On top of all this, Richard had a great sense of fun and a wicked sense of humour.

Altogether, Richard Batchelor was a distinguished immunologist, who made major contributions to the fields of immunogenetics and transplantation, held prestigious positions of national and international leadership, but, most of all, was an exceptionally generous and charming mentor, colleague and friend. Predeceased by his wife Moira (née McLellan), he was survived by their four children – Andrew, Annabelle, Simon and Lucinda.

Sir Robert Lechler

[The Guardian 23 February 2016 – accessed 10 October 2016]

(Volume XII, page web)

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