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)

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

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year