Eric Theodore KnudsenBMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7324.1310f (Published 01 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1310
Eric Theodore Knudsen
Former medical director Beecham Pharmaceuticals (b London 1921; q Middlesex Hospital 1949; FRCPath, MRCGP), d 23 June 2001.
After service in the Royal Air Force, he began studying medicine in 1944. After qualifying he took a house physician appointment at St Giles Hospital, Camberwell, where he met Muriel, a ward sister, whom he married in 1951. He then became a junior lecturer in the Bland Sutton Institute of Pathology at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School and later senior lecturer in the Courtauld Institute of Biochemistry under Professor Sir Charles Dodds. This latter appointment was critical to the development of his career and resulted in his joining Beecham Pharmaceuticals in 1956. It was during this period that they were developing the range of synthetic and semisynthetic penicillins that became a major advance in antibiotic therapy.
Eric thoroughly enjoyed his work with the Beecham group, which he undertook with characteristic enthusiasm. As director of the medical department, he was particularly concerned with the clinical applications and trials of the new drugs. With his colleagues he wrote many research papers and travelled widely lecturing. He soon acquired an international reputation as a world expert on the penicillins. He was a hard worker and at times almost obsessional in the care and attention to detail that he gave to the preparation of his lectures and presentations. He was, however, also a party person who loved congenial company. With a glass in his hand and cigar in his mouth he could bring a buzz to any group where he was present. His work with Beecham covered nearly 25 years until he retired in 1980.
In retirement in Surrey he maintained his interest in the penicillins and carried out some consulting work. He was also at last able to indulge to the full his lifelong passion for fly fishing, so much so that the muscles of his right arm (his casting arm) became remarkably strong. He was proud of that strong right arm and after Christmas lunch, perhaps slightly in his cups, he would challenge allcomers to arm wrestling contests with inevitable triumph.
Eric was a man who loved people and loved life. The world will be a duller place for his passing. He leaves a wife, Muriel; and a brother, Tony. [Anthony Knudsen]
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