Obituary: Professor William Taylor

William Taylor, occupational therapist: born Lerwick, Shetland 17 July, 1911; research chemist, ICI Ardeer 1937-39, plant manager 1940-45; general practice 1952-60; Lecturer, Department of Community and Occupational Medicine, Dundee University 1960-68, Reader 1968-73, Professor of Occupational Health 1973-81 (Emeritus); married 1950 Vicky Swanson (two sons); died Wick, Caithness 29 April 1994.

OCCUPATIONAL medicine, despite being a relatively small speciality (concerned with the effects of health on work, and work on health), has always been enriched by outstanding individuals. William Taylor was one such person who, through his work in Scotland, contributed to the international standing of that speciality. He was an academic researcher of the highest calibre and an inspiring teacher.

Born in Lerwick, Shetland, in 1911, Bill Taylor was educated at Kirkwall, on Orkney, and Wick, across the water in Caithness, and then went to Edinburgh University where he graduated in Chemistry in 1934 proceeding to PhD in 1937. This led to a career in industry at the explosives division of ICI at Ardeer in Ayrshire. Subsequently he decided to enter medicine and graduated from Edinburgh University in 1950. After hospital posts in Edinburgh and Dumfries he entered rural general practice in Caithness, he continued to ask questions and seek answers, recognising, as other general practitioners have, the opportunities afforded by a rural practice.

In the Department of Community and Occupational Medicine at Dundee, Professor Alex Mair built up an interest in occupational medicine as well as public health. He persuaded jute industries, at a time when Dundee was recognised for jute, jam and journalism, to fund a university lectureship in occupational medicine in 1960. Taylor, with his commitment to research, his experience in clinical medicine and industry, was the obvious choice for this new and challenging post. Despite initial problems of accommodation, with caravans used as temporary offices, and lack of funding for this rather unusual (because it was new in Scotland) academic development, Dundee became recognised as a centre of excellence in occupational health. Over the years additional staff were appointed, an occupational hygiene unit was established and research programmes got under way. Courses for doctors and nurses received national and international recognition and there was a commitment to both formal postgraduate training and continuing professional development. If anyone ever exemplified the statement 'there are no such things as problems, just challenges', it was Taylor.

At the start of his time in Dundee Taylor's research interests centred around the jute industry: all aspects of the working conditions, from dust to dyes, and from mineral oil to noise, were the subject of investigation. He is best remembered for his pioneering work on the measurement of noise-induced deafness and its effects on workers. Unlike many researchers, his commitment did not end with the identification of the problem. He was equally enthusiastic in seeking to influence policy and his work contributed substantially to the development of the present industrial injuries legislation. Not surprisingly, given his industrial background, Taylor took a particular interest in toxicology, and one particular area of study was the effect of mercury on farming, seed-dressing and dentistry.

Following on from his research on noise, there was a natural progression to the study of hand-held power tools and saws and the resulting known as Vibration White Finger or Raynaud's phenomenon. This area of study remained his main concern right up until his death, and he was a familiar figure in industry, forests, and many other places of work throughout the UK.

His contribution to occupational medicine was recognised by professional and academic bodies. In 1971 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1982. He gained the degree of MD in 1950 from Edinburgh University and was awarded a DSc in 1978.

He saw his retirement to Caithness in the far north of Scotland as a new opportunity: it gave him more time for research, writing, lecturing and travel. Despite living in a remote area, he continued international collaborative research in vibration and its related health problems. He published specialised papers and texts widely, and spoke at many international symposia. I met him just after his 80th birthday, when he recounted with joy the wonderful present he had been given of a mountain bike. He was still riding that bike the week of his death. Those who were taught by him or who worked with him will not forget the enthusiasm he had for his subject and the inspiration he was to those beginning a career in occupational health. Humour and anecdotes were just as much a part of Bill Taylor as was the serious science.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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 People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee