Lives of the fellows

William Edmund Cooke

b.1 June 1881 d.20 July 1939
MB ChB Liverp(1904) DPH Lond(1913) MD Liverp(1914) MRCPE(1913) FRCPE(1917) MRCP(1926) FRCP(1934)

William Cooke, who was to gain an international reputation for his researches in the diseases associated with coal-mining, was born at Aspull, near Wigan, and educated at Bullingham, Hereford, Ampleforth College, York, and the University of Liverpool. His father was Luther Cooke and his mother the former Ada Elizabeth Glover. William’s undergraduate interest in pathology decided his career. During the two years he spent in general practice with his father, he held a post in the Liverpool Public Health Laboratories. Work on the Arneth count at the Research Laboratories and on the effects of arsenical preparations on trypanosomes with Benjamin Moore was followed by a year of practical experience in port sanitation and epidemiology in India, the Malay States and China, and by his appointment as assistant medical officer of health for Bermondsey. The post of medical superintendent of the Ochil Hills Sanatorium in Scotland gave him the opportunity to return to his researches on the Arneth count; in his small laboratory he had worked out a simplified technique by 1914 which he proved valuable in assessing the activity and prognosis of tuberculosis.

Service in the R.A.M.C, from 1915 to 1919 at the Isolation Hospital, Aldershot, and in laboratories in Egypt, and return to his work in Bermondsey, preceded his invitation in 1921 to organise a pathological service for the Royal Infirmary, Wigan. There he came into his own. His original mind and his excellence as a microscopist he combined with his considerable knowledge of geology to lead to entirely new concepts of the pneumoconioses. His discovery of the asbestos bodies inspired the researches supervised by Mereweather and so ensured the acceptance of asbestosis as an industrial hazard.

Cooke’s work on haematology was equally brilliant. He recognised the hyper-segmented neutrophil of pernicious anaemia, and by 1928 had concluded that the cell changes in the disease were the result of metabolic interference with cell maturation.

He had no time for holidays; his working day started at 5 a.m., and in a full day his only hobbies were reading, correspondence and occasional fishing and fossil-hunting. He married Ethel, daughter of William Pates Ward; they had one son.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1939, 2, 314, 374; J.Path.Bact., 1940, 51, 163; J. roy. micr. Soc., 1939, 59, 277; Lancet, 1939, 2, 293.]

(Volume V, page 82)

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