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William Halstead Taylor

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 18 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5475
  1. C Williams,
  2. A Khaleeli

    William Halstead Taylor (“Bill”) died peacefully at home on 23 February 2008. From 1959 he developed the chemical pathology laboratory services at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary and established the Metabolic Unit, an innovative single roomed ward suited to metabolic “balance” studies. As gauge of his remarkable journey, one of his first jobs was the then audacious move of stopping the practice of “capping” urine collection containers with twists of hemp rope.

    Initially there was a very small number of staff, and, as those familiar with the deeper labyrinths of the old Royal Infirmary in Liverpool will remember, competition from literally thousands of cockroaches, which mercifully were photophobic. Test procedures, though sophisticated, depended predominantly on manual manipulation, and it took more than an hour of careful calibration before blood gas could be measured (approximated) on the apparatus of the day. Modern students of clinical chemistry will have limited familiarity with the noise of flames routinely used at that time to measure analytes such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. In those early days immunological techniques for measuring hormones and steroids were emerging, and radioactive tracers to that end where just entering the general laboratory domain. Bill was instrumental in taking the great step of ending gonadotrophin estimation techniques based on the weight of mouse ovary—a whole live mouse per patient being injected with human urine. This was not a popular move with some clinical staff, but Bill was not a man to court popularity. Thus it was that rabbits took over the animal house from mice and in return for being treated considerately generated a supply of antibodies for analytical use. Unfortunately this friendly transaction was unpredictable in outcome initially and …

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