OBITUARY : Professor Douglas Miller

Over the past decade and a half when any of my (often most vulnerable) constituents have come to see me about problems related to head injury or mental illness, I would ask them in whose hands their treatment lay. Often the answer was "Professor Douglas Miller of the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh". "In which case," I could truthfully say, "you are in the hands of one of the most gifted neurosurgeons in the world."

Not only was Douglas Miller one of the most distinguished neurosurgeons, but he was also a supremely caring man of medicine, who took a sustained interest in what became of his patients. He was genuinely loved and respected, moreover, by those who worked for him: junior doctors, nurses or cleaning staff. In all his work he was marvellously supported by his wife Margot, herself a distinguished nurse and matron.

Alas, the M8 motorway and its predecessor the A8 three-lane road between Edinburgh and Glasgow, running through my constituency, has been notorious for the many appalling motor accidents that have happened on it, often involving severe head injuries. Miller, to my first-hand knowledge, would turn out at any hour of day or night to apply his expertise. It was the consensus of his colleagues both in the Western General Hospital and at Edinburgh University to whom I talked that no one in Europe knew more about the problems associated with intracranial pressure or was more skilled at dealing with them.

Miller was born in Glasgow of a father who worked as an executive for Collins the publishers. At Glasgow Academy, then as now a testing academic school, he distinguished himself and went to the university intending to read modern languages. In midstream he decided to change and, without a science background, was accepted into the medical faculty who suspected that he was a student of great talent. In this they were right.

During the period when he rotated, as every medical student had to, from orthopaedics which had been his first interest, he came across Bryan Jennett, the world-renowned neurosurgeon. Such was Jennett's influence that Miller decided to make his life in neurosurgery. Jennett told me yesterday: "Miller was involved in developing organised care for patients suffering from head injuries in collaboration with accident surgeons and anaes- thetists. He devised means of measuring and treating the dangerous high intracranial pressures that often complicate such injuries. He was also active in laboratory experimentation in this field in Glasgow, Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia."

It is a widespread view in the biological sciences faculty of Edinburgh University that their colleague Miller was in the world class of expertise in the complications of head injuries. He was extremely prominent on the international stage of neurosurgery. Only weeks ago, for example, he was at the important conference on head injury at Toronto, giving a paper on neuro-traumas, "Brain Ischaemia after head injury: Monitoring the Threat". Earlier this summer he was in Berlin at the General Conference on Neurosurgery addressing his colleagues from all round the world on "secondary insults in head injury and clinical trials". He was a prominent figure at the congresses of the European Association of Neurosurgeons. And young neurosurgeons from many countries spent time in his clinics and laboratories as part of their training.

Miller was also in the last couple of years deeply concerned about government actions in withdrawal of money destined for pure research and last month at a Cambridge workshop, sponsored by the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, contributed a powerful paper on "The Threat to Academic Neurosurgery: The Consequences of Government Cut-Backs".

My friend and Parliamentary colleague Professor Sam Galbraith, now Labour Member of Parliament for Bearsden but in a previous incarnation himself a distinguished professor of neurosurgery in Glasgow and a close friend and colleague of Miller, told me yesterday: "Douglas worked hard and played hard. He was able to combine scientific brilliance, with a full and enjoyable life. Douglas always had time for his family, friends and, possibly unusual in his profession, his junior colleagues. One night at a conference in the United States, Douglas, another professor and myself sat up the whole night drinking. After a shower, Douglas then delivered a quite brilliant lecture on head injury. That was the measure of the man."

On Wednesday morning when it was known in Edinburgh that Douglas Miller had died there was a sense of lacuna not only in the Western General Hospital and the medical faculty of the University, but throughout a wide sector of life of the Festival city.

James Douglas Miller, neurosurgeon: born Glasgow 20 July 1937; Surgical Senior House Officer and Registrar, Glasgow 1962-65; Medical Research Council Fellow 1965-67; US Public Health Service Fellow in Neurosurgery, University of Pennsylvania, 1969-71; Senior Lecturer in Neurosurgery, Glasgow University 1971-81; Professor of Neurosurgery, Virginia Commonwealth University 1975; Professor of Surgical Neurology, Edinburgh University 1981- 95; married 1965 Margaret (Margot) Rainey (two sons); died Edinburgh 23 August 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own