Leading scientists leap to the defence of 'corrupt' Doll

Some of Britain's most senior scientists have angrily denounced suggestions that Sir Richard Doll, who proved the link between smoking and lung cancer, had deliberately failed to disclose financial dealings with the chemicals industry.

The scientists said that tens of millions of people owed their lives and health to studies pioneered by Sir Richard. "It is with dismay that we now hear allegations against him that he cannot rebut for himself," the scientists say in an open letter.

Sir Richard, who died last year aged 92, had received consultancy fees of $1,500 a day from Monsanto during the 1980s and several thousand pounds from the Chemical Manufacturers Association, Dow Chemicals and ICI. Although friends and colleagues insist that Sir Richard made no secret of his private consultancies, his close links with the chemicals industry were not widely known.

However, unlike today, there were no rules then about declaring financial interests. Colleagues of Sir Richard point out that it is only in recent years that scientists have been required to disclose financial interests. In any case, they argue, Sir Richard donated his fees to charity.

They also point out that the news of his dealings with the chemicals industry came from his own papers which he had donated to a museum of medical history.

In the open letter, the head of the Medical Research Council, Professor Colin Blakemore, and five other leading scientists strongly support Sir Richard against allegations that his science was compromised. "We feel it is our duty to defend Sir Richard's reputation and to recognise his extraordinary contribution to global health, which began in 1950 with his first [scientific] paper demonstrating a link between smoking and lung cancer," they say.

"He played a key role in the development of randomised controlled clinical trials - now the standard method by which new treatments are evaluated. He also helped identify several occupational hazards, most notably asbestos, and assess reliably the dangers of radiation," they say.

The letter is co-signed by Lord Rees, the president of the Royal Society; Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust; Professor John Bell, president of the Academy of Medical Science; Professor Alex Markham, head of Cancer Research UK and Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University, who worked alongside Sir Richard for 30 years.

The authors say that Sir Richard willingly made his expert advice available to industry and to government.

"On the basis of those papers, it has recently been suggested that Sir Richard's advice to industry somehow compromised his own publications.

"We know of no evidence to support this allegation. Sir Richard was open about these consultancies and felt it appropriate that companies should seek expert advice on the safety of their products," the letter says.

Professor Peto said: "Twenty years ago people often did not disclose funding when writing scientific papers. Nowadays, it is not only standard practice, it is mandatory. I think this change is an improvement, and so did Richard Doll."

The letter

Sir Richard Doll was one of the world's greatest cancer researchers. It is with dismay we hear allegations against him he cannot rebut. His extraordinary contribution to global health began in 1950 with his first paper demonstrating a link between smoking and lung cancer. He played a key role in developing randomised controlled clinical trials, among many other invaluable contributions. It has been said his advice to industry compromised his publications. We know of no evidence for this. He was open about consultancies and felt companies should seek expert advice on the safety of products.

Professor Colin Blakemore; Dr Mark Walport; Lord Martin Rees; Professor John Bell; Professor Alex Markham

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
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 General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits