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Doll, Sir Richard (1912-2005)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 PP/DOL
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Doll, Sir Richard (1912-2005)
Date(s): 1943-1998
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 61 boxes
Name of creator(s): Doll | Sir | William Richard Shaboe | 1912-2005 | Knight | epidemiologist and cancer researcher
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Sir (William) Richard Shaboe Doll qualified in medicine at St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, University of London, in 1937. After five years military service, he started research in the field of gastroenterology with Sir Francis Avery Jones at Central Middlesex Hospital in 1946. During the next twenty years, he contributed many papers on the aetiology and treatment of peptic ulcer.

In 1948, he joined the Medical Research Council's Statistical Unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine under Sir Austin Bradford Hill, with the primary objective of investigating the cause(s) of a dramatic increase in the mortality of lung cancer. On Bradford Hill's retirement in 1961, he took over the directorship of the Unit and continued in this post until his appointment, in 1969, as Regius Professor of Medicine in the University of Oxford. Ten years later, in 1979, he became the first Warden of Green College, Oxford, a new College established primarily to serve the special interests of clinical medicine at Oxford. Whilst at Oxford, he directed the Cancer Epidemiology Unit established by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. He continued to work as an honorary member of Sir Richard Peto's research group at Oxford after his retirement in 1983.

Doll's principal research interests were the effects of smoking, ionising radiation, oral contraceptives, and the occupational hazards of cancer. In 1981, he published with Richard Peto a report on the Causes of Cancer at the request of the Office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress. His pre-eminence in the field of epidemiology led to a steady stream of honours and lecture opportunities across the world. He received 15 honorary degrees from the universities at home and abroad, and a number of awards including the Royal Society's Royal Medal, the BMA Gold Medal, General Motors Mott Prize and the UN Award for Cancer Research. Sir Richard Doll was a Foreign Associate of the American Association of Arts and Science and received his OBE in 1956, FRS in 1966, was knighted in 1971, and became a Companion of Honour in 1996. In 2002 Doll was elected a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. Doll died on 24th July 2005, aged 92.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir Richard Doll arranged as follows: Section A. Correspondence and papers from Doll's period as Regius Professor of Medicine in the University of Oxford (1969-1979). Includes the administration papers of medical departments. During Doll's professorship, most of the planning and development of the John Radcliffe Hospital complex was undertaken, and many of the papers relate to this project, including building specifications and architect's plans as well as numerous reports prepared for committees on which Doll served, including those concerned with the re-organization of Oxford hospital services.

Section B. Papers deriving from the conduct of trials and other epidemiological research. The collection contains material from a range of clinical trials in the field of gastroenterology, conducted initially under Francis Avery Jones at Central Middlesex Hospital. The trials investigated a variety of treatments of ulcers: from an investigation of the influence of smoking, to the role of blood group distribution and family history, from the efficacy of liquorice treatment to the efficacy of intragastric milk drips in uncomplicated gastric ulcer, and from comparative trials to determine rates of healing, to investigating cortisone in ulcerative colitis. Occupational epidemiology is well-represented, including material on both vinyl chloride and asbestos. The latter incremental research into the link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer (at the Turner and Newall factory in Rochdale) includes related correspondence, draft papers and original data, beginning with Doll's landmark paper of 1955. Other research-based material includes papers relating to a Medical Research Council trial of mild hypertension (completed in 1985), for which Doll acted as Chair of the Ethical Committee. Papers on smoking and lung cancer are less well-represented: spanning the period 1956-1972, they do not, unfortunately, include papers from formative research conducted with Bradford Hill. Correspondence relating to ISIS-3: Third International Study of Infarct Survival (for which, Doll acted as Chair of the Data Monitoring Committee) can be found at D/3/82, amongst the lecture papers where it was originally filed.

Section C. Doll's international reputation prompted a number of requests for his professional assistance, from both private and public sectors. In addition to formal consultancy conducted in America and Europe, Doll's international lecturing itinerary sometimes incorporated local consultancy - see, for example, D/3/41 (Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Study), D/3/42 (correspondence with Shell Oil, Houston, concerning peer-review of a case-control study of fourteen leukaemia deaths at an oil-refinery), or D/3/54 (a new Centre for population health studies in Tasmania). More extensive consultancy is represented by papers concerning the Spanish Toxic Oil Syndrome: the WHO invited Doll to weigh evidence gathered to determine the cause of the epidemic and prepare an expert report.

Section D. Lecture texts and papers, published and unpublished from 1968 to 1991. Many files contain germane correspondence, notes and background material. For instance, D/1/20 ("Osler's English School") contains brief correspondence with the Dept of Pathology, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford on Osler's post-mortem record; D/1/32 ("Pott and the path to prevention") contains photocopied medical notes of James Chard, chimney sweep (St Batholomew's Hospital, 1848); D/2/28 ("Avoidable cancer: attribution of risk") contains clinical correspondence on beta-carotene; and D/3/24 ("Medical effects of smoking: problems and perspectives") includes correspondence with Austin Bradford Hill on the origins of the prospective study of doctors and their smoking habits. Some additional papers, prior to 1968, can be found in Section B, where they are filed together with contemporaneous research materials.

Section E. Audio and video tapes amongst Doll's papers. A small collection of materials drawn from 1981-1984, including an interview on Japanese television.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English; some texts in Spanish

System of arrangement:

The collection is organized as follows: A/ Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford; B/ Research; C/ Consultancy; D/ Lectures and Papers; E/ Audio-Visual Resources.

Conditions governing access:

The majority of PP/DOL is available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with the Archivist after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.
The following files are closed:
PP/DOL/A/1/1 is closed until 1 January, 2076
PP/DOL/A/1/21 is closed until 1 January, 2072
PP/DOL/A/1/23 is closed until 1 January, 2077
PP/DOL/A/1/25 is closed until 1 January, 2078
PP/DOL/A/1/26 is closed until 1 January, 2079
PP/DOL/A/1/29 is closed until 1 January, 2076
PP/DOL/A/1/39 is closed until 1 January, 2077
PP/DOL/A/3/16 is closed until 1 January, 2080
PP/DOL/A/3/17 is closed until 1 January, 2077
PP/DOL/B/3/3 is closed until 1 January, 2055

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:

Accession 662 (papers relating to Doll's Regius Professorship at the University of Oxford) was collected via the Bodleian Library, where it was initially stored.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were accessioned as follows: Accession 899 (26 January, 2001); Accession 835 (3 April, 2000); Accession 662 (16 August, 1996); Accession 622 (24 January, 1996); Accession 449 (12 November, 1992); Accession 411 (12 February, 1992).

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For an introduction to PP/DOL, see Chris Beckett, "The epidemiologist at work: the personal papers of Sir Richard Doll", Medical History, 46:3 (2002), 403-21. See also, Richard Doll, "Spanish Toxic Oil Syndrome," Medical History, 47:1 (2003), 99.

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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