Lives of the fellows

Gordon Roy (Sir) Cameron

b.30 June 1899 d.7 October 1966
Kt(1957) MB BS Melb(1922) DSc(1929) FRCP(1941) FRS(1946) PCPath(1962)†

Gordon Roy Cameron was born in Victoria, Australia. His paternal grandfather was a farmer from Dyce, Aberdeenshire, who migrated to Australia in the 1870’s; his father was a Methodist minister. Roy was the elder of two children; his younger brother Eric died at the age of six months.

Like so many Methodist ministers Roy’s father was moved about from parish to parish every few years, so the family frequently changed homes. Moreover, as the Rev. Cameron was often away from home on circuit the boy was largely brought up by the women in the family.

Roy did well at school and at the age of seventeen he obtained a major scholarship in algebra and British history at Queen’s College, University of Melbourne. However he had already decided on medicine as a career and during his student days he decided to become a pathologist. He qualified in 1922. Next year he was appointed tutor in physiology, histology and pathology at Queen’s College, Melbourne. His ability was soon recognised and in 1925 he succeeded F.M. Burnet as first assistant to Professor Kellaway and Deputy Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

In 1927 Cameron left for Europe, to study first under Aschoff at Freiburg-im-Breisgau and later under Boycott in University College Hospital Medical School, London. His intention had been to return to Australia, but he decided to remain in London and he went to live at the home of Mr. Fred Crew, Boycott’s chief laboratory assistant. Except for a few years when his widowed mother set up house with him, he lived with Mr. and Mrs Crew until he died. The Crews devoted their private lives to looking after Cameron, who never married.

In 1933 Cameron became pathologist at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Stratford, London. After this brief interlude in a non-teaching hospital he returned to UCH in 1934 as Reader in Pathology. Boycott retired the following year, and in 1937 Cameron became Professor of Morbid Anatomy, and, in 1946, Director of the Graham Department. He held both these posts until he retired in 1964.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Cameron was seconded to the Chemical Defence Experimental Station at Porton, and he remained there during the war, working mainly on problems of toxicology. While he was there he wrote his book The Pathology of the Cell.

In 1945 Cameron returned to the Pathology Department at UCH, and continued the programme of research work, mainly on liver pathology, that had been interrupted by the war. His department soon became renowned as a research centre. He built up a small but excellent team and several of his assistants were eventually appointed to university chairs. For twenty years from 1932 he was Assistant Editor of the Journal of Pathology and Bacteriology, and in 1941 he became an FRCP. In 1946 he was elected to the Royal Society. He served on numerous government committees and was given the honorary degree of LLD by Edinburgh University and later by Melbourne University. In 1957 he was knighted for his services to pathology, and numerous honours followed. From 1947 to 1956 he was a member of the Agricultural Research Council, and from 1952 to 1956 of the Medical Research Council. By now he had earned a formidable reputation in the world of academic pathology. Several of his assistants and pupils had achieved world-wide distinction. Perhaps the best indication of his standing among his peers was the unanimous decision of the Council of the newly created College of Pathologists to offer him in 1962 the unique post of Founder President of the College. He became an admirable President, meticulous in all his detailed work. By this time he was already suffering from heart trouble, and his cardiac failure progressed gradually until he died on 7 October 1966.

Cameron was an inspiring teacher of medical students and young doctors and his ‘rag classes’ became a popular tradition at UCH. He was kindly and considerate to the numerous young pathologists who came to him for advice. Though he appeared easy going, his standards were very high and he excelled in choosing his close assistants. It was said of him that ‘all his geese became swans’ , and indeed the achievements of his pupils are prodigious. Cameron made original contributions to numerous branches of pathology. These were enumerated as follows by C.L. Oakley, who wrote his biography in the Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society: diseases of the pancreas, thyroid, spleen, and liver; compensatory hypertrophy, histochemistry, insect pathology, blast injuries, war gases and related substances, pulmonary oedema. His bibliography in the Memoirs of the Royal Society lists 145 items.

HI Winner

[Biogr.Mem.Roy.Soc., 1968, 14, 83-116;, 1966, 2, 955-6, 1015-1146; Lancet, 1966, 2, 862-3, 913, 975; J.Clin.Path., 1967, 20, 5; Times, 10 & 13 Oct 1966, 12 Nov 1966; World Medicine, 1 Nov 1966; American J. clin. Path, 1968, 50, 252; DNB]

(Volume VI, page 80)

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