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Norman AshtonRobert Gregory HendersonMichael HerzMaurice Wingate PatersonGerald Barcroft RobinsonRobert Joseph SmithWilliam Deane SteelAlistair McElderry TurnbullRoland Charles UrenMichael Treharne WadeKathleen WarinDiane Elizabeth Killcross

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 05 February 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:384

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Norman Ashton

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World leader in research into eye diseases and former director of pathology Institute of Ophthalmology, 1948-78 (b London 1913; q Kings College/ Westminster Hospital 1939; FRCP, FRCOphth; CBE, FRS, KStJ), d 4 January 2000. He was pathologist to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital from 1941 to 1945 before doing military service with the Royal Army Medical Corps in west Africa and Egypt. He became director of pathology at the Institute of Ophthalmology in 1948 and built up a laboratory of international repute, which contributed to research and provided a clinical service to Moorfields Eye Hospital. He was responsible for the training of the first generation of ophthalmic pathologists in Britain. His major research was in diseases of the retinal blood vessels: diabetic retinopathy, hypertensive retinopathy, and the retinopathy of prematurity. He discovered that excessive oxygen given to compensate for breathing problems associated with premature birth can cause an obliteration of growing retinal blood vessels followed by disorganised regrowth and scarring. His observations led to the careful control of oxygen delivery to premature babies. He was the first in Europe to identify Toxocara canis as a cause of retinal disease in children. Professor Ashton played a key part in establishing the European Pathology Society, of which he was made life president. A founder of Fight for Sight in 1965, he was chairman from 1980 to 1991, when he became a patron. In honour of his work for the charity and his research achievements the new Institute of Ophthalmology building in Bath Street was named after him. He received many awards and prizes and was president of five medical societies of pathology and ophthalmology. For many years he was a steward at Westminster Abbey and was a popular after dinner speaker: his wit and immaculate delivery were legendary. After one speech in …

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