Obituary: Professor Edward Shotton

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The Independent Culture
FOR NINE years from 1939, Edward Shotton undertook pharmaceutical research and development work with Burroughs Wellcome & Co, at Dartford, in Kent. It was this important industrial experience in the large-scale formulation of medicines which laid the foundation stone for a carefully thought-out pharmaceutical research strategy in his later university career in the School of Pharmacy of London University.

Shotton was born at Smethwick in 1910. After qualifying as a pharmaceutical chemist in 1933, he worked in the retail pharmacy sector until 1934 and then as a demonstrator at London University until 1939, when he joined Burroughs Wellcome.

In 1956, he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmaceutics of London University when it was still based at the Pharmaceutical Society (now the Royal Pharmaceutical Society) in Bloomsbury Square, and oversaw its translation to become part of the university's School of Pharmacy. His predecessor Professor Harry Berry had initiated courses not only in general pharmaceutics (the ethics, formulation and dispensing of drugs), but also in pharmaceutical microbiology and pharmaceutical engineering science, and Shotton ensured the smooth development of all these branches of pharmaceutics, guarding the balance between professional training, teaching and research.

Shotton's scientific research interests and programmes covered a very wide area of pharmaceutical science. He had the capacity to liaise with colleagues in disciplines outside medicine - for instance chemical engineering, colloid science and food science - which led to substantial advantages in the quality of research and journal publications.

He co-authored an important series of papers separately with Drs David Train, Colin Lewis and Ken Ridgway on the essentials of powder technology related to dry fill drug dosage forms (powder-filled capsules) and the formulation of pharmaceutical tablets. Focus was made on aspects of the work previously neglected, such as the most efficient methods of mixing powders, the proneness of mixtures to segregate and the cohesive nature of powder mixes.

The compressibility of powders to form tablets was also studied in considerable depth. An acclaimed first, with the aid and enthusiasm of the department's chief technician, Jack Deer, was the development in the early 1960s of radio techniques to measure the stresses produced in the presses used in the mass- production of tablets. This work was published in conjunction with David Ganderton in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

Shotton was also co-author of an important textbook, Physical Pharmaceutics (1974), with Ken Ridgway, which comprehensively covered the physical material science underlying the practice of drug formulation.

Perhaps Shotton's most original and remarkable contribution to pharmaceutical material science was in the area of the so-called wet formulations: the suspensions, emulsions and creams of medicines. Quality control is of the utmost importance in production of pharmaceuticals: without it, patients' lives are at risk. However, it is not just the method of production which needs control but also pharmaceutical formulation. Shotton realised that, in this connection, the techniques of rheology - the methods of improving the texture of liquid medicines and creams to make it acceptable to patients - would be invaluable.

One particular aspect of this work was triggered by the question "How do some very large water-soluble polysaccharide or protein molecules stabilise oil-in-water emulsion?" Shotton realised that these molecules, such as gum acacia Senegal and gelatin (also used extensively in the food industry), do not act on emulsions in the accepted sense. This set off an ongoing research programme which has very surprisingly led back into the heart of clinical medicine and has given an important handle on questions such as "How is the human bone joint lubricated?", "Why does this mechanism fail in arthritic disease?" and "What is the physical function of human saliva?"

Ted Shotton's pastimes included music, particularly Gilbert and Sullivan, playing bowls and fishing in Scotland. He had a warm enthusiastic personality, and a sense of humour and fair play recognised by all.

Brian Warburton

Edward Shotton, pharmaceutical chemist: born Smethwick, Staff- ordshire 15 July 1910; Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics, London University 1948-56, Professor of Pharmaceutics 1956-77 (Emeritus); married 1943 Molly Marchant (one daughter); died Ipswich, Suffolk 22 May 1998.