Professor Sir Richard Doll, the scientist who first confirmed the link between smoking and lung cancer, has died.
He died on Sunday 24 July, aged 92, at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford after a short illness.
Medical Research Council Chief Executive, Professor Colin Blakemore said: “Professor Sir Richard Doll was one of the most important medical scientists of the 20th century. His proof of the link between smoking and cancer has done as much to save lives as the discovery of penicillin or the development of polio vaccine.”
One of the world’s most highly regarded professors, Sir Richard was responsible for the good health of millions. In 1951, Sir Richard started a study with Austin Bradford Hall which showed that smokers were much more likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers. The study would eventually last for 50 years and would go on to show that almost half of all persistent smokers were eventually killed by their habit.
After initially suspecting the cause to be car exhaust fumes when appointed by the MRC to discover why the number of lung cancer cases had risen so sharply, Sir Richard soon realised that the growing trend of smoking could be to blame. He then started work on his seminal study with Professor Austin Bradford.
As well as confirming the link between tobacco and lung cancer, he showed that smoking could also cause many other types of cancer, as well as heart disease, respiratory disease and peptic ulcer.
Sir Richard was appointed Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University in 1969. Dr John Hood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “Sir Richard’s enormous contribution to medicine globally, and within Oxford, cannot be understated. This research has saved many lives.”