Obituaries

Ian MunroGeoffrey MatthewsPeter William PriceConstance Dix (“Dixie”) RobertsPeter James Roylance

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7078.447 (Published 08 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:447

Ian Munro


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After house jobs and National Service with a brief spell in radiology, Ian Munro's whole professional life was spent at the Lancet. At the time this length of service made him the longest ever full time medical staff member of any medical journal, and the record probably persists to this day. But there was much more to Ian than mere survival (though that was an achievement: in those days assistant editors at the Lancet came and went at such a rate that one of the many distinguished in later life proposed establishing a dining club). Ian wrote quickly and lucidly, being described by a predecessor, arguably the greatest medical editor of all time, Sir Theodore (Robbie) Fox, as the best medical journalist he had ever met. He espoused the traditional Lancet values of tolerance and fairness, being an adamant supporter of the National Health Service. And to his editorials he brought a particular emphasis on topics dear to his heart: the perils of nuclear stockpiling; world population; the rights of women everywhere to contraception and abortion; and support for the radical feminist obstetrician Dr Wendy Savage in her battles at the (Royal) London Hospital.

Ian also had a major role in re-establishing the pre-eminence of the Lancet. His predecessor had abolished editorial peer review, relying on the office assessment of submitted articles. Though he argued cogently for this policy, which is still being debated today, it had a negative effect on the Lancet's reputation, particularly in the United States. Not only did Ian restore refereeing by the Lancet but he spent much time telling contributors and readers of the change, travelling widely around the world. And he continued this international approach by supporting the Vancouver Group (the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) when it was formed. It saddened him that, despite this body's initial achievements, the later chauvinism of a few of its members in refusing to widen its composition deprived it of the worldwide influence it should have had. Another feature that marred his last year as editor were moves by its publishers. Like most editors reared at the time Ian concentrated wholly on the journal's content and was outclassed when the editorial office was moved without consultation and an inexperienced editor appointed from outside the office.

The Lancet took a little time to recover from this debacle. Nevertheless, Ian was cheered by another achievement: the rapprochement between the Lancet and the BMJ. The atmosphere between the two had been frigid ever since the 1930s, when the prizes at Robbie Fox's intellectual Hampstead parlour games had been unopened copies of the BMJ, and became even worse in 1947-8 when Fox supported the introduction of the National Health Service and Hugh Clegg at the BMJ opposed it. Mediated by Ian, the thaw was celebrated with a retirement dinner for him and his staff at BMA House and the presentation of a festschrift published by the BMJ.

A tall, gangly man, when undisturbed Ian would emit a continual loud hum, similar to a hive full of active bees. Outside the Lancet his great interest was cricket. As a Yorkshireman he had played this since school and Guy's, continuing in village clubs in Kent even up to his retirement, and his skills were apparent in the regular games of rounders and croquet between the Lancet and the BMJ (by arrangement, always drawn). He was also active in good causes, including Medical Action for Global Security and Physicians for Human Rights. He leaves a wife, Olive (also a doctor); three sons; and two daughters. [Stephen Lock]

Ian Arthur Hoyle Munro, editor the “Lancet” 1976-88; b Bradford 1923; q Guy's 1946; FRCP; died after surgery on 22 January 1997.

Geoffrey Matthews

Former consultant occupational health physician (b 1925; q The London 1953; FRCP, FFOM), died in his sleep on 6 November 1996. During the war he served as an officer in the Royal Navy, seeing action in destroyers in the north Atlantic. After qualifying and house jobs he spent three years in the Royal Canadian Air Force, embarking on a career in occupational medicine at Esso in Fawley on his return to Britain in 1959. After a short break in general practice he rejoined Esso and in 1971 became chief medical officer to British Oxygen, where he soon became an authority on medical gases and cryogenic transport. An active member of the Society of Occupational Medicine, he was the founder editor of its newsletter, and after retirement continued to work part time and also voluntarily for the Motor Neurone Disease charity. Predeceased by his wife, Katie, he leaves a son, daughter, and grandchild.

[Bill Dixon, Jonathan Ross, Mike Gilbert]

Peter William Price

Former general practitioner Northampton (b 1924; q Oxford 1956), died of colonic cancer on 24 November 1996. While working as an anaesthetic technician at Oxford he was persuaded to enter medicine by Professor (Sir) Robert Mackintosh. He moved to Northampton in 1962, entering general practice six years later. He leaves a wife, Carol, and two sons.

[Stephen Goulding]

Constance Dix (“Dixie”) Roberts

Former consultant psychiatrist Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich (b 1904; q Glasgow 1928; DPM, MRCPsych), died after a stroke in November 1996. Interested in psychosomatic illness, she was very much a doctors' psychiatrist and was consulted by Norfolk doctors for their own and their families' problems. From 1948 to 1972 she ran the child guidance clinic in Norwich, while after retirement she worked for some time in prisons. Her great passion was opera and she visited festivals all over the world, and she was also a keen gardener. She never married.

[A Christie]

Peter James Roylance

Executive medical director international medical division Merck, Sharp ' Dohme New Jersey, United States 1982-96 (b Hull; q Bristol 1955; FFPM RCP, FACP), d 28 December 1996. After working as a lecturer and researcher in haematology he entered the pharmaceutical industry in 1970, moving to the United States in 1979. A masterly raconteur, he was an unsurpassed after dinner speaker. He leaves a wife, Peggy; two daughters; and two granddaughters. A thanksgiving service will be held at 2 pm on 1 March 1997 at St Mary's Church, Sevenoaks, Kent.

[Dennis Hyams]

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