Lives of the fellows

Frederick James Conway

b.14 Sept 1921 d.25 May 1998
MB BChir Cantab(1946) PhD Lond(1955) MD Cantab(1956) MRCP(1976) FRCP(1980)

James Conway was a physician and physiologist who made a substantial contribution to the management and understanding of the mechanisms by which blood pressure may be raised in hypertension. He made his mark in each of the posts he held in a distinguished and unusually varied career spanning fifty years.

He qualified in medicine from Cambridge and St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School in 1946. He was first a lecturer in physiology at Charing Cross, but then returned to clinical medicine, albeit with a strong research base, as an associate professor at the University of Michigan. In his years there he gained an international reputation for his work on the pathophysiology of circulatory disorders, as one of the pioneers in the measurement of the output of the healthy and diseased heart. He went on to a full professorship in medicine at Georgetown University in Washington DC, before a family crisis led to the difficult decision to leave this prestigious appointment and return to Britain in 1970.

On his return he sought a post with the pharmaceutical division of ICI. Within three years he became manager of the biology department. This was another fruitful period and Conway’s expertise in circulatory physiology was integral to the successful introduction of the new generation of beta-blocking drugs for the treatment of hypertension.

He retired from ICI in 1980 and went to Oxford as an honorary physician in the department of cardiovascular medicine. Here he continued to work in the laboratory and in the hypertension clinic until a few weeks before he died. Although he was forced to give up personal responsibility for the care of patients when he reached the age of 70, he was still seen as a guiding hand by his younger colleagues at the clinic. It was in the laboratory, though, that he was happiest and at his best and where he performed seminal and highly regarded work on the technique and interpretation of ambulatory blood pressure recording. He also developed simple but ingenious methods of assessing new anti-hypertensive drugs in clinical trials.

James Conway was a modest man, unconcerned by title or position, and content for the quality of his work to make his reputation. He was generous with his time and with his ideas, which he was always willing to share with others. His own high standards and evident enthusiasm for the work in hand made him a role model and father figure for the many young research fellows passing through his laboratory over eighteen years.

He published extensively in high quality journals. Among his awards were the Folkow award for integrated physiology given by the European Society of Hypertension and the Ciba Foundation award for research on ageing. Conway was also an established investigator of the American Heart Association.

John Ledingham

[References:The Times 11 June 1998;Brit.med.J.,1998,317,418]

(Volume XI, page 123)

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