Kenneth Samuel WilliamsonBMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7523.1027-f (Published 27 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1027
Kenneth Samuel WilliamsonFormer director of medical services ICI (b 24 March 1932; q Manchester 1957; MSc, MD, FFOM), d 7 July 2005.
After the usual preregistration house appointments Ken started his career in the department of physiology at Manchester as an MRC scholar researching—mainly in man—on the actions of adrenal hormones on the kidney, the postural effects on renal function and on circadian rhythms in adrenal functions. It was during those later studies that he came into contact with the university department of occupational health to study the effects of shift working on adrenal function.
This led to a change of career into occupational medicine, but he never lost his academic approach and interest in physiology. He obtained a post in ICI working in the dyestuffs division, where there had long been an interest in chemical exposures leading to the development of bladder tumours. He stayed with ICI, eventually becoming the director of medical services in 1974. Throughout that time, while running the medical services of a large international company, he retained a scholarly approach, often looking at problems as a physiologist.
A quietly spoken, somewhat shy man, with an almost waspish humour, he earned the respect of his colleagues in both medicine and the world of industry—a clear example of "in quietness and confidence shall be your strength."
I was in his office when news of the disaster at Bhopal broke. As the director of medical services for, what was at the time, Britain’s leading chemical company with worldwide responsibilities he realised the full significance of that event. Nevertheless, he was asking, not simply, "What does methyl isocyanate do?" but "How does it do it?"
More widely in occupational medicine, he served as chairman of the standards committee of the British Occupational Hygiene Society and on the research committee of the Society of Occupational Medicine. Soon after the Royal College of Physicians set up the Faculty of Occupational Medicine he served for some years as a board member. Outside occupational medicine he was a member of the CBI health and safety policy committee and a member of the advisory committee on toxic substances of the Health and Safety Commission.
After retiring from ICI in 1985 he moved to Norwich where, with his wife, June, they established a small consultancy in occupational health—back to the factory floor, where he felt most happy.
Regrettably, a pituitary tumour affected him in the later part of his life. He was devotedly looked after by his wife, who supervised his many medications, but, sadly, after that full and active life, the effects of radiotherapy on the surrounding brain dogged his last months.
To those of us privileged to have known and worked with him, he will be remembered as a sincere and cultured man, a kindly friend. [W R Lee]
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