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David John Weatherall: haematologist and geneticist whose work on thalassaemia showed the potential of molecular medicine

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l92 (Published 10 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l92

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Re: David John Weatherall: haematologist and geneticist whose work on thalassaemia showed the potential of molecular medicine

In June 1975, I was a medical registrar in Bournemouth, aspiring to a more academic career than was promised by that clinical training position. Having seen an advert in the BMJ for a clinical lecturer post at Oxford, where I had been a clinical student, I telephoned a number listed in the advert. David Weatherall answered the telephone and suggested that I visit the Department, where he had been the Nuffield Professor of Medicine for approximately 1 year. Accordingly, I visited Oxford and recall being attracted by the fact that there were facilities for basic research, at a level that was no doubt unique in a clinical department in the UK at that time (for example, if one wished to learn protein chemistry). After that visit and an interview a few weeks later, I was offered the job and moved back to Oxford in October 1975.

A few years later, when I encountered difficulties with an unpromising clinical trial of antilymphocyte serum in acute ulcerative colitis, Weatherall became my de facto research mentor, and I was able to complete the project and defend a thesis on the subject at Cambridge, some two weeks before I left Oxford and went to San Francisco as a research fellow in July 1981. Although I did not work in Weatherall's immediate orbit thereafter, I stayed in touch with him and continued to benefit from his long-distance support, for my efforts in medicine/science and in music, a subject about which (as stated in the obituary) he was enthusiastic. Over the span of Sir David's long and remarkable career, he was a role model whose combination of accomplishments was not replicated by anyone else.

Competing interests: No competing interests

14 January 2019
Martin F Heyworth
Part-time composer and retired physician
Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
(Formerly) VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA