April 21, 2024


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 vastly improved patient care. John has also been a passionate advocate for patients – as a medical adviser to the charity Thyroid UK, commentator and author.

Born in the village of Burley in West Yorkshire, he was the only child of Edna (née Clarke) and Maurice, an optician and chemist. Educated at Ilkley Grammar School, he studied biochemistry at Leeds University, graduating in 1958.

He then obtained a doctorate in physical chemistry at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was supervisor Sir Cyril HinshelwoodA Nobel laureate, whose work inspired John enormously.

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

In 1975 he started working as the international clinical trials co-ordinator for Amersham International (now GE Healthcare), a manufacturer of radiopharmaceutical medical products, in Buckinghamshire. There he and his colleague Terry Wilkins pioneered the field of thyroid hormone detection. They won the Prince of Wales Award for Industrial Innovation and Production in 1985, and in 1988 became the inventors of, and patentees of, a new improved test for free thyroid hormones.

John then worked for a decade from 1988 as an independent consultant in the field of medical diagnostic devices, 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 myself, Rolf Larisch and Johannes Dietrich, who jointly contributed to the basic understanding of thyroid physiology, pathophysiology and endocrine regulation.

John met Joan Hirst, a laboratory 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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