John Midgley obituary


My colleague and friend John Midgley, who has died aged 88, was a scientist, biochemist and researcher best known for the invention and development of thyroid hormone blood tests in the 1980s.

A pioneer in medical biochemistry, his work in the field of thyroid hormone detection hugely improved patient care. John was also a passionate advocate for patients – as a medical adviser to the charity Thyroid UK, commentator and writer.

Born in the village of Burley in West Yorkshire, he was the only child of Edna (nee Clarke) and Maurice, an optometrist and chemist. He was educated at Ilkley grammar school and studied biochemistry at Leeds University, graduating in 1958.

He then gained a doctorate in physical chemistry at Exeter College, Oxford, where his supervisor was Sir Cyril Hinshelwood, a Nobel laureate, whose work inspired John immensely.

In 1961-62 John was a fellow in molecular biology at the Carnegie Institute in Washington before returning to Britain to take up a lectureship in biochemistry at Leeds University (1962-67). He then accepted a position as lecturer and research fellow in biochemistry and molecular biology at Newcastle University (1967-75).

In 1975 he began working as the international clinical trials coordinator for Amersham International (now GE Healthcare), a manufacturer of radiopharmaceutical medical products, in Buckinghamshire. There, he and his colleague Terry Wilkins did groundbreaking work in the field of thyroid hormone detection. They won the Prince of Wales award for industrial innovation and production in 1985, and became the inventors of, and patentors for, a new improved test for free thyroid hormones in 1988.

John then worked as an independent consultant in the field of medical diagnostic devices for a decade from 1988, and as a clinical trial abstractor for the Cochrane Collaboration on Gastroenterology (1998-2005).

After his retirement in 2005 John lived in Ilkley, but remained active. He wrote many scientific papers, and was part of a group of international thyroid researchers, including me, Rolf Larisch and Johannes Dietrich, that contributed collectively towards the basic understanding of thyroid physiology, pathophysiology and endocrine regulation.

John met Joan Hirst, a lab technician, in Leeds, and they married in 1964.

Joan died shortly after John. He is survived by their children, Catherine and Edward, and five grandchildren, Ben, Hannah, Matthew, Oliver and Alexander.


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