Physician, scientist and academic; Born December 7, 1923; Died September 1, 2007.
Professor Sir Abraham Goldberg, who has died aged 83, was one of the most outstanding physician scientists of his generation.
Born to immigrant parents from Lithuania and the Ukraine, Goldberg excelled throughout his life as a doctor, scientist, teacher, mentor, supporter of good causes and as a dedicated family man.
Loading article content
It was as a young boy at primary school in Edinburgh that he fell seriously ill with rheumatic fever, a disease whose late effects 66 years later were to lead to the stroke which so disabled him in the final year of his life.
A distinguished pupil at George Heriot's, Goldberg won the Crichton scholarship to Edinburgh University medical school, from which he graduated in 1946. Despite his outstanding academic record he had difficulty securing his first medical training job locally but did become a house physician in Halifax, Yorkshire, before completing his pre-registration training back in Edinburgh.
Wishing to pursue an academic career, he was awarded a Nuffield research fellowship in 1952 in the department of chemical pathology at University College Hospital Medical School in London. There he acquired the laboratory research skills and scientific rigour that underpinned his future research into abnormalities of the blood pigment, haem, which cause the various debilitating manifestations of porphyria.
This post led to an Eli Lilly fellowship at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he performed the research that would help establish him as an authority in his field. He enjoyed his time in America but his egalitarian spirit was not at ease with the inequities of its healthcare system and, in 1957, he was recruited by Professor Edward Wayne, later Sir Edward, as lecturer in the department of medicine at Glasgow University at the Western Infirmary.
In 1957 he also met Clarice, a woman of great charm who was to be his partner and supporter for the rest of his life. After a two-week romance they got engaged and were married on September 3, 1957.
Goldberg's academic career prospered in Glasgow. Publishing more than 250 papers he became not only a world authority on porphyria, the condition believed by some to have been responsible for the insanity of George III, but also on lead poisoning and was influential in achieving a safer water supply for Glasgow.
This sustained academic output was rewarded with a senior lectureship then, in 1967, a personal chair in the department of medicine at Glasgow University, when he also became the director of a the Medical Research Council's group on iron and porphyrin metabolism at the Western Infirmary.
His interests in clinical pharmacology and toxicology strengthened with the growing awareness, to which he contributed, that many prescription and even herbal medicines could cause porphyria. In 1970 he succeeded Stanley Alstead as regius professor of materia medica and therapeutics at Glasgow University, based at Stobhill Hospital, which gave him the opportunity to build up his department with young academics.
It was during his tenure that his leadership and expertise as a clinician scientist was recognised by his membership and in 1973 his chairmanship of the clinical research board of the Medical Research Council.
Goldberg's final appointment was as regius professor of the practice of medicine at Glasgow University at the Western Infirmary in 1978, where a major focus of his activity was to be the modernisation of medical undergraduate teaching. He was also invited to be chairman of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) in London. Goldberg was acutely aware of the importance of this committee, which had only recently been formed in the wake of the thalidomide scandal.
He fell victim to a contentious TV documentary about Opren, a drug for arthritis that caused liver disease. This showed the CSM, and Goldberg, in an unfavourable light which was regarded as unfair. Nevertheless, he rallied and was honoured with a knighthood, conferred in 1983 for his services to medicine.
Goldberg's medical celebrity brought him many prizes, eponymous lectureships and several overseas visits. Memoirs of those times spent in the Middle East during Israel's birth pangs (when he met David Ben-Gurion, the Israeli prime minister), and of being in South Africa during apartheid, tell much about Goldberg's abhorrence of discrimination and his passion for fairness.
Success such as his has to be won in an often hostile environment in which certain personal characteristics must be displayed appropriately. Ambition, energy, passion, tenacity and singlemindedness made him either famous or notorious depending on where one stood with him.
Retirement was an opportunity fully to indulge his passion for history and his gift for creative writing, which he had revealed during his career by the publication of many-non medical articles in newspapers and magazines. He also gave generously of his time in charitable works, including the promotion of a better understanding between those of his faith and others.
Despite his huge workload, Goldberg remained devoted to his family. He was buried 50 years to the minute of his marriage to Clarice. She survives him, together with his three children, David, Jennifer and Richard and four grandchildren, Danielle, Adam, Yosef-Dov and Shimon.