Intended for healthcare professionals


John Lewis EmeryJohn Killen ArmstrongFrancis Austin BrearBronislaw ChudeckiGwilym Kenneth DaviesAldwyn Morgan GeorgePrem SarinRahum ShoulmanLeslie StanklerPatrick Arthur Thorn

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 02 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:574

John Lewis Emery

Embedded Image

Professor associate in paediatric pathology University of Sheffield, 1972–80 (b 1915; q Bristol 1939; FRCPath, DCH), died in a fire in his Gloucestershire home trying to rescue his dog on 1 May 2000. He was a paediatric registrar at the Bristol Children's Hospital in December 1940 when the hospital was blitzed, and he helped to evacuate the inpatients. He registered as a conscientious objector and drove ambulances during the second world war. Mindful that this decision was likely to jeopardise opportunities in paediatric medicine, he turned his interest to pathology. He was appointed lecturer in pathology in Bristol in 1942 and consultant paediatric pathologist at the Sheffield Children's Hospital in 1947 and remained in the post until 1980.

He was probably Britain's leading scientist in the subject of sudden infant death syndrome. He proposed significant new ideas, which were often initially rejected, only to be later proved correct. He claimed that 80% of infant deaths were probably due to recognisable medical causes which doctors had failed to diagnose, while a further one in ten were the result of infanticide or filicide. His conclusions were based on a career of postmortem examinations of more than 10 000 babies as well as confidential interviews with parents, health visitors, and social workers. From the outset Emery suspected that there were many different causes behind infant mortality.

He was heavily involved in the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. He discovered particular links between mortality and such matters as smoking, room temperature, and prematurity. He was involved in research which suggested that laying a child on his or her back was the safest course of action.

He was a founder member of many scientific establishments, including the Paediatric Pathology Society and the Society for Research into Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida. For many years …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription