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African Health Sciences
Makerere University Medical School
ISSN: 1680-6905 EISSN: 1729-0503
Vol. 6, Num. 2, 2006, pp. 68-68

African Health Sciences, Vol. 6, No. 2, June, 2006, pp. 68


Arthur Williams, Physician; Professor of Medicine, Makerere University, 1953-1961; Westminster Hospital 1929; CBE, MA, MD, FRCP; b 1905, died 2 September 2005.

Code Number: hs06016

Arthur Williams played a major part in the development of medicine and medical training in East Africa.The son of a country doctor, he was born in the north of England in the days when visits to outlying hill farms were made in all weathers by horse and trap, with any urgent minor surgery conducted on the kitchen table.. A colleague was to reflect in later years that his inclination to hard work and to expressing his mind without unnecessary reserve was fostered by his upbringing in a part of the country noted for these virtues.

He trained at Cambridge and Westminister Hospital, and on joining the colonial medical service in 1931 was posted to Uganda. Early up-country posts as a medical officer were followed by work in Mulago Hospital, where he developed an increasing interest in medical education, then at its very early stages, and he was appointed lecturer in medicine and therapeutics and later in physiology also.An interest in cardiac disease and hypertension continued throughout his life, and he was also involved with pulmonary tuberculosis, starting the first clinics for collapse therapy during the war years. He became a member of the editorial panel of The East African Medical Journal. In 1947 he was appointed physician to the government hospital in Dar-es-Salaam, before a return to Uganda in 1949 with his appointment as Medical Superintendant & Physician to Mulago Hospital.Together with his pathologist colleague J.N.P. Davies he pursued research into the curious condition of endomyocardial fibrosis. He helped initiate the scheme for the building of the new 900 bed teaching hospital at Mulago, and was subsequently closely involved with its planning.

In 1951 he was appointed Head of the Department of Medicine, Makerere University College and two years later became the first Professor of Medicine. Concurrent posts during the next decade included membership of the Uganda Medical Board, Consultant Physician to the Uganda Government, and membership of the Council of the University College of East Africa. He was largely responsible for initiating and organising the Medical Research Council‘s East African tuberculosis chemotherapy trials. He was a founder member and president of the Association of Physicians of East Africa in 1957 and in the same year became Vice Principal of Makerere University. Links with medical schools in UK were close, liaisons that greatly benefited all parties and had much to do with the high regard in which the Makerere medical school was held.

Arthur and Molly‘s family of five children grew up and were educated in Uganda and Kenya. His boyhood in Northumberland had bred in him a love of natural history that continued throughout his life, and with a sailing dinghy he and the family were able to explore the northern shores and islands of Lake Victoria, many of the islands being uninhabited at that time and often thickly forested.At their home on Makindye there was always a welcome for all, including students, colleagues, visiting researchers and examiners and their many friends.

In 1961, after 30 years service to medicine in Uganda, he was awarded the C.B.E., and returned to England to take up the new post of Director of Postgraduate Medical Studies at the University of Oxford. Other appointments held during this time included Secretary of the Medical school, Chairman of the Board of the Faculty of Medicine, and Vice Chairman of the Nuffield Committee for Research and Postgraduate Medical Training. Early in his time at Oxford he was a member of a committee appointed to advise the Government of Tanganyika on the future of its health services, and for several years was a member of an advisory committee on low-priced books for developing countries. His interest in Uganda and its people was to continue for the rest of his life.

He finally retired in 1971, returning to the county of his birth, Northumberland, and as in all their homes over the years, Arthur and Molly were much loved by friends and their ever-expanding family. Later years were spent in Suffolk and then Cumbria, where he kept busy with his continuing interests in ornithology and botany, and his hobby of book-binding. He kept very fit, and in his eighties was still walking the hills of Cumbria. He was 89 when, on his own, he climbed the steep slopes to the summit of Whiteside (2300 ft.)…“I wanted to go at my own pace”.

At the time of his 100th birthday party he had 11 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren, with many gathering for the occasion from far and wide. He died five days after his birthday.

Copyright © 2006 - Makerere Medical School, Uganda

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