Robert TurnerErnest John Coponet KendallRonald William Lones McLeishThomas (“Tucker”) MooreWilliam Ross SadlerStanley Grenville ShawCharles Stuart Murray StephenBernard Colin WalkerJohn Robert WinterBMJ 1999; 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7216.1074 (Published 16 October 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1074
Professor of medicine and director of the Diabetes Research Laboratories, Oxford (b 1938; qCambridge/Middlesex 1963; MD, FRCP), died from a stroke while visiting the United States on 1 August 1999. Robert first became interested in diabetes while working with Dr John Nabarro at University College Hospital where he helped to develop an insulin assay. He continued the work as a fellow in Boston, moving to Oxford in 1972. At the time little was known about type 2 diabetes even though it was the commonest form of the disease. Robert developed physiologically based hypotheses which he went on to prove with innovative research methods. He believed that a failure of the islet cells was the fundamental causative factor, whereas others thought that a failure in the action of insulin was primarily responsible. He has been shown, in the main, to be right. He was one of the first clinicians to recognise the importance of genetics in determining the underlying mechanisms responsible for the disease, and the Oxford laboratories became home to some of the leading clinical geneticists. He combined the qualities of being a considerate and kindly doctor to his patients with great determination and rigour as a research scientist.
In the mid-1970s he was convinced that there was a need to establish a long term study into the causes and the most effective treatment of type 2 diabetes. He drew up a plan on the back of an envelope and, with colleagues in Oxford, refined this to a large scale prospective study aimed at showing that the complications of the disease could be reduced by earlier and more intensive treatment. The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study was a monumental initiative. It eventually involved 23 centres throughout the United Kingdom and more than 5000 patients and …
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