Obituary: Jack Potter, 90

Jack Potter
Jack Potter
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A RENOWNED physician, scientist and academic who taught at Edinburgh University has died at the age of 90.

Jacobus Louw Potter – known as Jack – was born in Fife, the son of a Lanarkshire boy miner who later became a minister.

Jack showed a talent for art from a young age and had initially hoped to go to art school, but when his mother suddenly died of a heart attack when he was a teenager, he decided to take up medicine instead.

After leaving Beath High School in Cowdenbeath, he went on to study at Edinburgh University, and in 1949 he married his first wife, Elizabeth Ross, a fellow physician.

Jack’s first career steps included positions as resident surgeon at Leith Hospital and medical registrar and research fellow in the rheumatic diseases unit at the Northern General in Edinburgh.

In 1952, he joined the medical branch of the Royal Air Force, where he became squadron leader in charge of the medical division at RAF Hospital, Padgate, Cheshire.

Two years later, he returned to Edinburgh, where he spent the bulk of the next eight years as a research fellow at the Northern General, save for a two-year spell in research at the New York University School of Medicine’s pathology department.

By 1962, he was back in the United States, having emigrated to White Plains, New York.

The following year, his wife and three children joined him and he spent almost 20 years in the US, working in various roles including for the Health Research Council of the City of New York and as an associate professor and associate dean of the NYU’s School of Medicine.

There he made a considerable contribution to the medical research community through his involvement with a variety of bodies, and during the 1970s he was elected a fellow of the American College of Physicians. Jack was also elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh while working in New York.

He and Elizabeth shared not only home but academic life, both specialising in rheumatic disease and arthritis, but the family suffered personal tragedy when she died in 1979 while only in her 50s.

Two years later, her widower returned to Scotland, taking up the post of executive dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Edinburgh University.

And two years after that, he met Catherine Matthews, known as Rena, and after many years of friendship and courtship, they got married in 2007.

As well as his illustrious career, Jack was an accomplished classical pianist and never lost his passion for painting. He is survived by his daughters Jane and Dorothy, son James and extended family.

ALISON SHAW