Intended for healthcare professionals


Irvine Loudon

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 02 March 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1085
  1. Matt Limb, London
  1. limb{at}

General practitioner, academic medical historian, and artist

Irvine Loudon was a medical academic historian, a dedicated doctor who reformed many aspects of clinical practice, and an active artist throughout his life. The polymath’s achievements earned him a place in the National Portrait Gallery among the leading medical figures of the 20th century.

In 1980, after his career as a general practitioner, Loudon became a full time medical historian, based at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford University. His books on topics including maternal mortality and childbed fever received worldwide acclaim.1 2 He also wrote about the evolution of general practice, and edited Oxford University Press’s Western Medicine: an Illustrated History.3

Iain Chalmers, editor of the James Lind Library, says Loudon had a profound influence on him and left a substantial legacy.4 5 6 “He was a kind and very encouraging mentor. I owe him an enormous amount.” When reviewing Loudon’s 1992 book, Death in Childbirth, for the Lancet, Chalmers wrote that it “deserves to be regarded as a milestone in the history of concern about death during childbirth.” The book showed, with “meticulous” handling of evidence, the extent to which quality of care by birth attendants could make …

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