Fred Lee

Born: January 5, 1935;

Died: June 2, 2023

Professor Frederick David Lee, universally and affectionately known as Fred, was born in Dundee into a vibrant, close and loving family, im-mersed in art, music and cinema.

He attended the Harris Academy where he was an outstanding pupil ex-celling at his studies as well as in art, the violin, cricket and rugby. He was shocked years later to discover that other parents expected their children to be given homework. He claimed that as a youth he never did any, spending his free time at the cinema, or on the cricket or rugby field. He was loving, considerate and gentlemanly from an early age.

In spite of this casual but highly successful approach to his early educa-tion, he graduated top of his class at Dundee medical school and opted to train in pathology at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.

Pathology is a very visual discipline. Practitioners look down micro-scopes and examine tissue and give names to abnormalities. Fred came from a family of professional artists and an early sign of him translating his artistic inheritance for use in diagnosis was his success working with potatoes as a student. He had to identify 60 different varieties of potato as well as the multitude of afflictions they might harbour merely by studying the leaves. Most of pathology is much easier than that.

His training was very general, including lengthy spells in bacteriology and paediatric pathology and after passing his final pathology exams he moved to Makere University in Uganda where he worked alongside Dennis Burkitt of lymphoma fame. In spite of having developed a spe-cial interest in gastrointestinal pathology, on his return to Glasgow he was persuaded to take up a position as consultant haematologist at the Western Infirmary. He occupied this position with distinction for five years but did not neglect his other interests, completing his MD thesis, entitled The Intestinal Mucosa in Health and Disease.

At this time there was a correspondence in The Lancet commenting on the brevity of the names of some recently formed specialty medical journals. Examples included “Gut” and “Blood”. The incomparable Bernard Lennox wrote a response to this article saying that one of his colleagues (Fred) had adopted a singular combination of special inter-ests that would be best served by a journal entitled “Blood and Guts”.

In 1970 Prof Tom Symington left the pathology department at the Roy-al Infirmary in Glasgow for the post of director of the Chester Beatty cancer research institute in London. Robert Goudie moved from the Western to take his place and inherited a sadly depleted department, since many of the consultants there had left to join Symington in Lon-don. By this time haematology was becoming more of a clinical rather than laboratory discipline and Goudie had little difficulty in persuading Fred to come to the Royal to head up the pathology diagnostic service.

All really difficult cases in the department were channeled through Fred. He was the consultants’ consultant. They all learned from him. His knowledge was shared with the wider academic community. He wrote over a hundred academic papers and co-authored a book on the biopsy pathology of the small intestine.

Lots of others wanted part of this remarkable man. He became a nation-al leader of the profession. His wisdom was sought by the Scottish Of-fice, where he became chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Scientific Services. He served on the Council of the Royal College of Pathologists, becoming chairman of examiners, and he was appoint-ed president of the Association of Clinical Pathologists in 1993.

Many of his colleagues cherish their memories of coffee breaks and lunch with Fred. He was a great raconteur, full of fun and gossip. He was expert on subjects as diverse as European and British history, fine art, food, wine and the great days of Hollywood. And he could come out with observations on humanity such as “When you smoke it is the most important thing in your life: it is the only thing you know you will have to do in the next hour”.

Fred’s wife Avril died in 2007and in 2016 he married Jean McIntosh Ramsay, nee Gray, from Lenzie where he lived latterly. He is survived by a host of step-children, cousins, and nephews.

Alan Foulis and Jonathan Lee