Real lives: Multi-talented professor gave 60 years to university

John Strong started work at Edinburgh University in 1949
John Strong started work at Edinburgh University in 1949
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Professor John A Strong, CBE, physician and medical academic at the University of Edinburgh, has died aged 97.

Born on February 18, 1915, to Charles and Mabel Strong, in the village of Kells in Co Meath, Ireland, John Anderson Strong was sent to school in England but returned to Ireland to study medicine at Trinity College, Dublin.

In October 1939, with the Second World War under way, he married Moira Heaney, a Liverpool surgeon’s daughter, who had also qualified in medicine but later gave up her career to support her husband.

Having obtained a pilot’s licence just before the war, Prof Strong applied for the Royal Air Force, but it was oversubscribed so, instead, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and saw front-line action during the allies’ Burma campaign against Japan. He was responsible for setting up two hospitals in Assam, India, which treated refugees fleeing the Japanese advance.

After the war, he trained at a London hospital before being appointed senior lecturer in medicine at Edinburgh University in 1949, the start of a 60-year involvement.

With his lecturing job went the post of honorary consultant physician at the Western General Hospital, where Prof Strong raised funds for a metabolic unit to study patients with conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

He was given a personal chair as professor of medicine in 1966 and, after retirement, was named professor emeritus in 1981.

Specialising in endocrinology, he helped discover chromosomal abnormalities that explained the rare “intersex” condition in which a person has the anatomical, psychological or behavioural features of both male and female.

He was also an expert in nuclear medicine, involving the application of radioactive substances.

From 1979-82, he served as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, where he was host to the Queen when she visited and was a driving force behind the creation of the Queen Mother Conference Centre, whose foundation stone was laid in 1994.

He was also a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in London and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

From 1976-83, he was a member of the UK Medicines Commission, which advised ministers on the regulation of medicinal products. He also served as a member of Lothian Health Board.

Having been awarded an MBE for his military service with the RAMC in 1942, he was appointed CBE in 1978 for his civilian medical work.

Prof Strong was a keen fisherman, stalker, golfer and student of national history. He died at the city’s Chamberlain Nursing Home. His wife died in 1997. He is survived by their son, Anthony, and daughters Elizabeth and Jane.