Obituary: Professor Sir William Paton

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE POWER and clarity of Sir William Paton's thought were well conveyed in Professor David Smith's obituary of him (6 November), writes Philip O'Donoghue. Adding to this, as Bill did, obvious sincerity, humanity and lucidity of speech could gain him a hearing on occasions when short shrift might have been expected.

During the 1970s the number of animal experiments reached a peak that worried many people. Paton, holding a press conference in his capacity as Chairman of the Research Defence Society, was asked to agree that over 5 million was excessive.

After a moment's consideration, looking very much as your photograph shows, he replied, 'Well, that may be so, but on the other hand maybe we are not using enough. You see, there are so many conditions that we are not even beginning to tackle - deafness, senile dementia . . .' (This was well before Alzheimer's disease attracted much public sympathy.)

The ensuing thoughtful silence of the media professionals was a more eloquent testimony to him than anything I can say.