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Charlotte Morrison Anderson

Former professor of paediatrics and child health Birmingham and director Institute of Child Health (b 20 March 1915; q Melbourne 1945), died in Melbourne on 15 April 2002.

Professor emeritus Charlotte M Anderson was an international pioneer in the field of paediatric gastroenterology, which brought together her skills in science and medicine. She was the first woman to be appointed professor of paediatrics in the United Kingdom.

During her childhood she was fascinated by the workings of the body and wanted to become a doctor. However, after completing high school in Melbourne her father was not keen on her going to university and suggested she "stay at home and help [her] mother." But a government scholarship allowed her to graduate, with honours, in science in 1936; she obtained her master’s degree the following year. She worked as a research scientist for several years then studied medicine, graduating with honours in 1945.

After hospital jobs in Melbourne she worked at the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street and at the Institute of Child Health at the University of Birmingham. Her meticulous, ground-breaking work with British colleagues on the role of gluten in coeliac disease helped to establish her international renown. She was appointed to a senior research post at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and started the first Australian cystic fibrosis clinic in 1953; this helped improve survival and quality of life for patients with this disease. She developed a strong research team in a gastroenterological research unit that worked on various forms of intestinal malabsorption in infants and children, including those caused by impaired digestion and absorption of sugars and other carbohydrates. By then research scientists and clinical researchers from around Australia and abroad were "knocking on her door" to learn from her awe-inspiring and determined attitudes to investigative diligence. She led by example and could be a hard taskmaster who had little time for weak argument or slothfulness.

When Professor Douglas Hubble retired from the Leonard Parsons chair in paediatrics and child health at the University of Birmingham in 1968, Charlotte Anderson was invited to accept that position and directorship of the Institute of Child Health. She accepted and developed a vigorous research group and fostered the development of other specialty areas in paediatrics in the West Midlands. With one of her original Australian research fellows, Dr Valerie Burke, she edited the first edition of Paediatric Gastroenterology that was a standard text for many years.

She was very active in the British Paediatric Association (now the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health) and helped to establish the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology.

Professor Anderson, "Charlo" to her many friends, returned to Australia in 1980 and continued to be active, intellectually, working on the second edition of her textbook. After several years in Perth she returned to her birthplace, Melbourne, surrounded by her many antiques and colourful paintings. In 1997 she was appointed a member in the general division of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to medicine. [Michael Gracey]