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Dame Barbara Clayton

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 29 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2004
  1. Peter Davies
  1. petergdavies{at}

Introduced new methods for detecting phenylketonuria

Dame Barbara Clayton, who has died aged 88, showed the importance of lead as a poison in children, and her research brought about its removal from paint, domestic plumbing, and eventually petrol. At Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in the 1960s she introduced new methods for detecting phenylketonuria, now familiar to all parents who witness the midwife taking a needleprick of blood from their newborn baby’s heel. She was at the forefront of emphasising the importance of nutrition in medicine. Among her many roles on advisory groups and committees, she chaired a controversial inquiry into water contamination at Camelford in Cornwall. She also furthered the role of women in medicine, becoming the first female president of the Royal College of Pathologists (1984-7) and the first woman to be dean of Southampton medical school.

Cup of tea

Her college portrait shows her not with microscope or learned tome but a cup of tea—a symbol of her convivial personality. “She solved problems with diplomacy,” said the consultant chemical pathologist Valerie Walker, a …

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