Obituary: Dr Edgar Sowton
Friday 12 August 1994
EDGAR SOWTON was an exceptional physician and scientist who achieved international acclaim for his work in cardiac pacing and coronary angioplasty.
Sowton was a remarkable student who obtained simultaneous degrees in Medicine and Physics from Corpus Christi, Cambridge. Seven years later in 1964 he won the Horton-Smith prize awarded by Cambridge University for the best doctoral thesis of his year, on cardiac pacing. His progress in medicine was no less impressive. In the 1960s he used his dual talents to become one of the world pioneers in the development of cardiac pacemakers, spending a fellowship at Karolinska Sjukhuset in Stockholm, the birthplace of pacing. He subsequently became a consultant cardiologist and assistant director of the Institute of Cardiology at the National Heart Hospital in London.
In 1970 he moved to Guy's Hospital where he became director of Cardiac Services. His drive, inquisitiveness and constant desire to improve the lot of his patients led him into another key area of clinical development - he was one of the first people in Britain to perform coronary angioplasty, keyhole surgery on the arteries of the heart, and developed a second international reputation in the medical field.
Sowton was lauded for his work all over the world. In Britain in 1972, he became the honorary secretary of the British Cardiac Society and its president in 1987. He was the president of the British Pacing and Electrophysiology Group and of its European equivalent, the European Working Group on Cardiac Pacing, organising the first European Symposium on cardiac pacing, in London, in 1977.
Overseas he received honours from professional societies in North America, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, South America and elsewhere. He was the author of over 600 papers and co-authored with Harold Siddens one of the standard texts on cardiac pacing, Cardiac Pacemakers (1966).
Sowton was not just a brilliant academic. The focus of his work was always practically oriented towards improving the health of his patients. He had the skills to implement demanding medical innovations, such as the use of appropriate timing devices to activate demand pacemakers.
As a friend he was loyal, unflappable, always ready with good advice and never short of humour. His family life was happy and a very important part of his life. In his later years he became a formidable offshore yacht skipper, using his talents to lead his class in navigation examinations.
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