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Paton, Sir William Drummond Macdonald (1917-1993)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/WDP
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Paton, Sir William Drummond Macdonald (1917-1993)
Date(s): 1930-1993
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 84 boxes, and 2 o/s boxes
Name of creator(s): Paton | Sir | William Drummond Macdonald | 1917-1993 | Knight | pharmacologist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

William Drummond Macdonald Paton was born in Hendon, London, 5 May, 1917, and died 17 October, 1993. Son of a clergyman, Paton was educated at Winchester House, Brackley, and at Repton. At New College, Oxford, he obtained first class honours in Animal Physiology (1938). He proceeded to study at University College Hospital (UCH) where he qualified as a physician (1942), marrying, in the same year, Phoebe Margaret Rooke.

His subsequent appointments were: Pathologist, Midhurst Sanatorium (1943); Member of Scientific Staff, National Institute for Medical Research (1944-52); Reader in Applied Pharmacology, UCH (1952-54); Vandervell Chair of Pharmacology, Royal College of Surgeons, London (1954-59); Professor of Pharmacology, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Balliol College (1959-84).

Other offices held include: Secretary of the Physiological Society (1951-57); Chairman, MRC Committee on Non-Explosive Anaesthetic Agents (1960-69); Member of the Medical Research Council (1963-67); Member of the Council of the Royal Society (1967-69); Delegate of the Clarendon Press, Oxford (1967-72); Chairman, MRC Working Party on Biochemical and Physiological Aspects of Drug Dependence (1968-75); Chairman, Editorial Board, British Pharmacological Society (1969-74); President, Institute of Animal Technicians (1969-74); Member, Central Advisory Council for Science and Technology (1970-71); Chairman, Committee on the Scheme for the Suppression of Doping in Horse-Racing (1970-71); Chairman, Research Defence Society (1972-77); Member, (Hunter) Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health (1978-79). In addition, Paton served as a Rhodes Trustee from 1968, and as a Wellcome Trustee from 1978. From 1953, Paton was consultant and adviser to the Director of Naval Physical Research, and was appointed as Civil Consultant in Underwater Physiology to the Navy in 1978, retiring from the role in 1982 on attaining the age of 65 years.

Amongst his many honours and awards were: FRS (1956), JP (1956), CBE (1968), FRCP (1969), FFARCS (Hon) (1975), and Knight bachelor (1979). He shared the Cameron Prize (1956) and the Gairdner Foundation Award (1959) with Eleanor Zaimis for their work on methonium compounds, and received the Gold Medal of the Society of Apothecaries (1979).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir William Drummond Macdonald Paton, 1930-1993, chiefly comprising papers relating to his main research interests, namely underwater physiology, histamine, synaptic transmission, drug dependence, anaesthetic mechanisms, allergy electron microscopy and the history of science, particularly medical science. The collection also includes correspondence, research papers and laboratory notebooks, and papers relating to the committee work that occupied his energies. Papers from Paton's time as both a Rhodes Trustee and a Wellcome Trustee provide further evidence of the extent of his commitments in committee. Papers relating to Paton's Chairmanship of the Research Defence Committee (1972-77) are particularly extensive and reveal the social and political pressures of the period, the passionate challenges of the anti-vivisection lobby, as well as Paton's personal commitment to a socially responsible use of animals in scientific experimentation. Papers relating to Man and Mouse: Animals in Medical Research (1984), in which Paton set out his fundamental position on animal experimentation, provide further material on this topic. Another field of interest in which Paton expended considerable energy was that of drug dependence, particularly the pharmacological action of cannabis. Through work in laboratory and committees, and through the media and many speaking engagements, he campaigned strenuously to warn of what he judged to be the deleterious effects of cannabis, and forged campaign alliances with American colleagues who shared his concerns. Throughout his career, Paton maintained strong links with the Royal Navy, acting as scientific adviser and consultant on deep diving and underwater physiology. This strand of his work was of enduring interest: Paton's work on the physiological properties of gases at high pressure led directly to the development of the deep-diving breathing mixture known as 'Tri-Mix', in which nitrogen is added to helium and oxygen. Paton took great pleasure in the Royal Navy achieving, in 1980, the world's deepest dive (see D/2/14).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as follows:
A Personal and Biographical Material
B Correspondence
C Pharmacology
D Royal Navy
E Animals in Medical Research
F Drug Dependence
G Trusteeship
H Unpublished Lectures.

All file titles within the above Sections are Paton's unless otherwise indicated by [ ] brackets.

Conditions governing access:

The majority of PP/WDP is available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

The following files are closed:
PP/WDP/D/2/9/2 is closed until 1 January, 2053
PP/WDP/D/4/5 is closed until 1 January, 2071
PP/WDP/D/7 is closed until 1 January, 2053

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented by Lady Paton between 1984 and 1995 (accessions 175, 192, 386, 506, 525, 547 and 581).

Allied Materials

Related material:

In the Wellcome Library:
British Pharmacological Society (SA/BPS).
Physiological Society (SA/PHY).
Research Defence Society (SA/RDS). Wellcome Foundation Archive.
Wellcome Trust Archive.
Paton's published papers (reprints) are bound as seven volumes (QV6:1-7) in the published books collection of the Wellcome Library.

Publication note:

For an introduction to PP/WDP, see Chris Beckett, "A coherent collection: the personal papers of Sir William Paton," Friends of the Wellcome Library & Centre for the History of Medicine Newsletter, 28 (2002), 7-11.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2009

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