Derrick Tovey

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 23 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6953
  1. Anne Gulland, London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Haematologist who was pivotal in introducing anti-D vaccination for pregnant women

Derrick Tovey was fairly new in post as consultant haematologist at St Luke’s Hospital in Bradford when he was asked to examine the blood of a patient—a cook at the city’s children’s hospital—who had pyrexia of unknown origin. The sample showed signs of a severe viral infection. Later that day, in January 1962, a sample from a patient with suspected meningitis was sent to the haematology team.

Tovey later wrote: “To my astonishment the blood count and film was almost identical to that [of the cook].”1

Tovey showed the film to a colleague, and they were astonished at what they found. “We consulted textbooks old and new, and an old haematology book stated that these changes could occur in smallpox. We later ascertained that these blood changes had been reported in 1925,” he wrote.1

Within 72 hours a further eight cases of smallpox came to light, spread among four hospitals in Bradford and a convalescent hospital outside the city. The hospitals were immediately closed, and all cases were transferred to an isolation hospital. Tovey became the “control of infection” …

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