Dr David Skeggs: Radiologist who pioneered the combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy

David Skeggs was a radiologist of international renown.

Many of his former patients around the world today owe their lives to his skill and devotion. It is ironic that he should have succumbed in the end to the disease, cancer, that he fought against for so long in others.

Skeggs was born in 1928, the son of a doctor in Stevenage and the youngest of five children. He was educated at Winchester, and it was was probably the most formative period of his life. He was there during the war years, when conditions were at their bleakest and the school appeared to us boys to be in the hands of a bunch of elderly eccentrics, all the younger masters having left to fight. Skeggs revelled in all this. Later in life, when in the presence of fellow Wykehamists, Skeggs would delight us with impersonations of his housemaster, the Bobber, and other dons. He and several of his contemporaries at Hoppers, his house, all of whom went on to become extremely distinguished, would meet every year for dinner in each other's homes, a ritual continued to this day.

Skeggs read medicine at Oriel College, Oxford then went to St Bartholomew's Hospital, qualifying as a doctor in 1952. He left Barts in 1954 to do his National Service, spending two years as a surgeon in the Royal Navy, mostly at sea in the Persian Gulf.

In 1956 he returned to Barts, where he decided to specialise in radiology, eventually becoming Senior Registrar. He left in 1964 to become Director of the Radiology Centre at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, where he carried out his important pioneering work during the next 25 years. At the head of a team of colleagues he developed the world's first fully computerised cancer treatment machine.

This technique, known as "conformational therapy", focussed the beam of radiation on the tumour moreaccurately, with less damage tothe surrounding tissue. He alsopioneered the combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer.

His last post before retirement was as Director of Radiotherapy at the Cromwell Hospital until he was 75. As a recognition of his achievements in the fight against cancer an annual David Skeggs Lecture was established in 2003 at the Royal College of Radiologists

While he was still working he was a member of the Board of Visitors of Ford Open Prison, on the Council of Wycombe Abbey School and a Governor of the English Speaking Union, and in retirement he became Chairman of the UCL Cancer Institute Research Trust. He was totally committed to his work and widely respected for his integrity, professionalism and devotion to his patients' care.

He had many outside interests which retirement gave him the time toenjoy to the full. He played an excellent game of tennis to the end, loved bridge, music, chess, foreign travel, wine and to mention just a few ofhis interests. He also loved a flutteron the Stock Exchange, even though he never had much money to playwith. One of his more unusual hobbies was driving steam engines andhe visited Poland twice to drive trains there.

Another was the council allotment in Barnes that he tended for half a century and that kept his kitchen supplied with the most succulent vegetables. Cooking was one of the great passions of his life, and anyone who hasn't eaten his leek quiche hasn't lived.

David Skeggs was a handsome, cheerful, outgoing man who always appeared 20 years younger than he was. At his happiest when enjoying himself with his family or entertaining his many friends, he never talked about his work unless asked. Nevertheless he was enormously helpful to anyone who needed medical advice of any kind.

David Bartholomew Lyndon Skeggs, radiologist: born Stevenage 26 August 1928; married 1957 Anne Hughes (two daughters); died 22 December 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Inspector

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Buddy & Team Leader / Buddy

£11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To join a team working with a female in her ...

Recruitment Genius: Configuration and Logistics Team Member

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 30 years ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence