Many might consider it self-evident that medical treatment should be delivered according to guidelines developed from the best available research evidence. Jim Petrie coined the phrase ''GOBSAT'' - ''Good Old Boys Sat Around the Table'' - to describe the process by which many guidelines are developed.

As founding chairman of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (Sign), and later

as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1997-2001), he fostered the development of more than 50 clinical guidelines in diverse medical fields. Sign guidelines, established by his efforts and now internationally respected, are developed by formally assessing the quality of avail-able scientific evidence and making recommendations of an appropriate grade.

The process is transparent and conducted by working doctors and allied professionals with, crucially, the involvement of patients. The summary sheets, widely disseminated, are carried in doctors' black bags - or bookmarked on the internet - rather than left unread on the bookshelf. At the time of his death, he was chairing expert groups on best practice for guideline development for both the Council of Europe and the World Health Organisation.

Throughout his professional life, he sought the greatest good of the greatest number, rather than ambition or flattery. The democratic instincts and common sense which characterised Sign imbued his contributions to diverse medical fields. He urged doctors and other healthcare professionals to consider services from the users' perspective - ''the journey of care'' - and to take responsibility for continuous improvement, using whatever levers for change are available. In his initial approach to a new

challenge, he instinctively disregarded the way it had always been done, but also managed to inspire others in whom he recognised a talent as a vanguard in implementing change. If he encountered initial hostility, it was often replaced by respect and understanding. When the job was done, he moved on to the next challenge, leaving an efficient new system for solving similar future problems.

Born in Aberdeen in 1941, his early schooling was in French as his father, a doctor with the World Health Organisation, was posted to Geneva. He returned to Aberdeen aged 11 with his mother, an educational psychologist, and attended Robert Gordon's College before studying medicine at Aberdeen Univer-sity. Playing for the 1st XI

hockey team and earning a full blue for skiing, he was elected president of the university athletic association. Just after graduation in 1964, he married Xanthe (nee Forbes) who, recognising his leadership tendencies, made him promise never to become prime minister.

He was appointed professor

of clinical pharmacology in Aberdeen in 1985 and became head of the merged departments of medicine and therapeutics in 1994. He was co-director of the Scottish health services research unit from 1986.

An incisive clinician, he was one of the first Scots to pass the London MRCP examination without first taking it in Edinburgh or Glasgow. At the time

of his first senior appointment

in clinical pharmacology at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, in 1970, he was at 29 and the youngest senior lecturer and

honorary consultant physician

in Scotland. He was known for excellent clinical teaching and cared passionately about medical undergraduate education, editing and revising a key textbook on medical treatment and an innovative atlas of physical signs. An early book on clinically important adverse drug interactions was translated into Japanese; subsequent works appeared in French, Greek, and Italian.

He championed problem-

orientated medical records and continued this theme throughout his career by promoting computerised clinical information systems, most recently as a mem-

ber of the Health Technology Board for Scotland. This formed the basis of an internationally-recognised shared care system, first implemented in the Aber-deen hypertension clinic. He

collaborated closely with colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry, recognising the importance of its links with academic medicine in enhancing the quality of therapeutic research.

With others in Aberdeen, he recognised that clinical decisions were often taken on the basis of blood pressure measurements conducted in a haphazard fashion. Characteristically, he implemented new standards for both research and practice which were later adopted internationally. His work in the British Hypertension Society - including a video, CD-Rom, and website - has been used to train doctors and nurses worldwide and laid the foun-dations of the large clinical trials which inform current practice

in this field. He published moer than 200 scientific papers and 20 book chapters and was on nine editorial boards.

A former ski instructor and racer, he especially enjoyed ski holidays in the French Alps with his children and grandchildren. Even in leisure he could not help using his ability to foster the

talents and skills of others. In 1976, he co-founded and secured financial support for the Lecht Ski Centre, a family-friendly resort on the Allargue estate in Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.

A cottage nearby was his refuge from work for weekends of fishing, gardening, walking, and whisky. He was delighted to see Upper Donside regenerated by skiing, culminating in the opening of the chairlift for the 2000/01 season. He was invited with Xanthe to a small dinner at Balmoral Castle with the Queen one summer evening in 1999.

Following his father, he became involved, in 1986, in the World Health Organisation, joining its expert panel on drug evaluation and working on the development of a model list of essential drugs, designed to promote effective and rational spending of limited national health care budgets. This project involved conducting periodic workshops throughout his career, mainly in the Middle and Far East. At the time of the diagnosis of his aggressive brain tumour in May, he had recently returned from planning the next phase at a meeting in Geneva. Those present testify that his contribution betrayed no sign of what was to come. Over the previous three years, as president of the Edinburgh college, he had visited (among others) Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, India, Pakistan, and Nepal - where he was granted an audience with the king.

As president, he co-authored

a letter to the British Medical Journal calling for the Scottish Executive to implement the Sutherland Committee's report recommending free personal care for the elderly. One of his forthcoming projects as he stood down was to chair the Scot-

tish Diabetes Framework, by which he hoped - with support promised by the executive - to channel the various professions' efforts to transform the management of diabetes in Scotland. He was a key presence over the years at the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines, becoming co-vice chairman in 1999. He was appointed CBE for services to medicine in 1996.

He is survived by Xanthe,

four children (all doctors), and six grandchildren.

Professor James Petrie CBE, FRSE, FMedSci; born September 18, 1941, died August 31, 2001.