William Ian Cranston

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 20 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:619
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    William Ian Cranston (always known as “Bill”) was born in 1928 in Glasgow. After being evacuated to Oswestry during the second world war, he moved to Aberdeen in September 1944 to study medicine, supported by an annual £25 scholarship. He graduated with honours in July 1949 at the age of 20 (the youngest ever graduate from Aberdeen Medical School).

    After junior posts in Aberdeen, his national service was in the Royal Air Force. Although stationed at RAF Moreton in Marsh, he served in Malta, Iraq, and Germany and aboard the RAF's inaugural flying hospital service.

    On demobilisation, he joined the medical unit at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, where he stayed for four years until 1956. He was then invited to join the medical unit at Oxford University, as first assistant to Sir George Pickering, the renowned professor of medicine. During this time he was awarded his MD from Aberdeen University, concerning the role of carbon dioxide in the control of respiration. During his tenure in Oxford he spent a one year sabbatical at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York.

    Bill remained at Oxford until 1964, when, at the comparatively young age of 36, he was appointed professor of medicine at St Thomas' Hospital London, where he was to stay for 29 happy years until his retirement. He was responsible for the undergraduate medical programmes and became a much respected and valued teacher as well as a talented general physician. His research was concentrated on his interest in fever and temperature control, particularly the role of pyrogens, on which subject he published widely. He also chaired the Committee on the Safety of Medicines. Although administration and committee meetings were an important part of his daily work, he certainly was not a fan of bureaucracy and would treat it with mischievous disrespect.

    Bill's values were never driven by greed, self promotion, or emotion, but by a genuine and unconditional desire to help others less fortunate than him. Following a major stroke in 1997 from which he did not fully recover, he accepted his situation nobly, selflessly, and courageously.

    Predeceased by his wife, Pamela, in 2000, he leaves four sons and eight grandchildren.


    • Former professor of medicine St Thomas' Hospital, London (b 1928; q Aberdeen 1949; MD, FRCP), died after a long illness on 22 February 2007.

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