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Gilson, John Cary (1912-1989)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 GC/237
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Gilson, John Cary (1912-1989)
Date(s): 1940s-1989
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 9 boxes
Name of creator(s): Gilson | John Cary | 1912-1989 | expert in occupational health and pulmonary diseases
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Cary Gilson was a leading figure in the study of occupational lung diseases. During the Second World War, he was employed at the RAF Physiology Laboratory (later known as the Institute of Aviation Medicine), Farnborough. He helped to develop improved oxygen equipment for pilots and, by inventing a simple spring-loaded tape measure (measurements could be taken at the same tension so that they matched each other), he mastered the problem of measuring pilots to their uniforms. In 1946, Gilson joined the Medical Research Council's (MRC) Pneumoconiosis Research Unit (PRU) as deputy to Charles Fletcher. The unit had been established in Cardiff in 1945 to examine coal workers' pneumoconiosis: it discovered that pneumoconiosis was preventable if dust levels were monitored, and coal workers x-rayed regularly. It also ascertained that the disease was not disabling until a second complicating condition began to affect the lungs. A simple breathing test was designed to measure the degree of disability caused. Gilson himself was responsible for equipping a mobile x-ray van for use in the field. He was an expert in film reading and worked with the International Labour Office (ILO) to standardise the classification of radiographs of pneumonconioses. During the 1950s the Unit also began to study the effects of asbestos and of organic dusts such as those produced by cotton, flax and hemp, which cause occupational diseases such as byssinosis.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of John Cary Gilson, 1940s-1989, including correspondence, notes, papers, reports, lectures and articles, relating to the work of the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit, 1952-1976; RAF Physiology Laboratory during the Second World War; asbestosis and pulmonary cancers.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as follows: A. RAF Physiology Laboratory B. Pneumoconiosis Research Unit B.1 Work on standards to classify the radiographic appearances of pneumoconioses B.2 International investigations B.3 Other asbestos and pneumoconiosis files B.4 Asbestos reference materials C. Lectures and correspondence relating to publications C.1 Lectures C.2 Correspondence relating to publications C.3 Notes D. Correspondence: Post-retirement D.1 Pneumoconiosis Unit, Penarth, and Department of Occupational Health and Hygiene, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne D.2 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Clinical Research Centre D.3 MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton D.4 General correspondence: family, friends, colleagues

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

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:

These papers were given to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre in November 1997 byt Mrs M E Gilson, J C Gilson's widow.

Allied Materials

Related material:

See 'Occupational Health/Medicine' sources leaflet. Charles Fletcher's papers are also held by the CMAC, although as yet uncatalogued. Other collections on occupational health issues include the papers of Donald Hunter (PP/HUN), Frederick Parkes Weber (PP/FPW), and the archives of the Society of Medical Officers of Health (SA/SMO). Sir Richard Doll's papers (PP/DOL), include material on asbestosis.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entry compiled by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jun 2008

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