Intended for healthcare professionals


John Kenyon (“Ken”) French Mason

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 22 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1432
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg
  1. ns{at}

Long serving Royal Air Force pathologist who later helped pioneer medical jurisprudence

Credit: University of Edinburgh

Ken Mason’s distinguished medical and medical jurisprudence career, which spanned 74 years, can be divided into three main parts.

He spent the first part serving for three decades as a forensic pathologist in the UK’s Royal Air Force. Focusing on aviation medicine, he rose through the ranks to become group captain and director of the RAF’s aviation and forensic pathology department and was regularly summoned to investigate aviation accidents. In recognition of his contributions to the forensic pathology of aircraft accidents, Mason in 1973 was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (Military Division).

“He was very much a pioneer of aviation crash pathology,” says Basil Purdue, formerly of the forensic medicine unit at the University of Edinburgh and now an independent forensic pathologist on the Home Office register.

Forensic medicine

In 1973, at the age of 53, Mason retired from the military and began the second part of his career, accepting an appointment as Regius professor of forensic medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He was well suited for academia. A dedicated and gifted teacher, he was admired not only by his students over the years but also his colleagues.

“He was an excellent lecturer,” says Purdue, “capable of captivating an audience with a fascinating extempore …

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