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Biographical entry Dodds, Sir Edward Charles (1899 - 1973)

Baronet 1964; Kt 1954; MVO 1929; FRS 1942; Hon FRCS 1970; MD London 1926; FRCP 1933.

13 October 1899
16 December 1973
Biochemist and Physician


Born in Liverpool on 13 October 1899 the only child of Ralph Edward Dodds and his wife Jane Pack, Charles Dodds was educated at Harrow County School and the Middlesex Hospital, where he won prizes in chemistry, pharmacology and physiology. He qualified in 1921 at the University of London, and proceeded in the next three years to the degree of PhD and MD, and also obtained the Membership of the Royal College of Physicians. He subsequently became FRCP, and served his College as President from 1962 to 1966; he was created a Baronet in 1964.

Since Sir Charles Dodds made his outstanding contributions to medicine as a physician-biochemist, only a summary of his career is offered here.

He was much influenced by Ernest Kennaway to whom he was assistant in chemical pathology at the Bland-Sutton Institute of Pathology attached to Middlesex Hospital, and when Kennaway moved to the Royal Cancer Hospital, Dodds was appointed lecturer in biochemistry in his place at the age of twenty-two, and when twenty-five was appointed Professor. With F Dickens he now published a book on the chemistry and physiology of the internal secretions, while carrying out the clinical biochemical routine work of the Hospital and teaching in the Medical School. He had already made important researches in respiratory physiology and the use of test-meals in diagnosis of gastric cancer.

Insulin had very recently been discovered, and Dodds was a pioneer in devising better methods of determining blood-sugar content by colorimetric analysis. In 1924 he collaborated with Dr George Beaumont in writing Recent advances in medicine; 'Beaumont and Dodds' remained a favourite vade-mecum of medical students through the thirteen editions which he edited up to 1952, and has continued to be popular.

S A Courtauld built an Institute for Biochemistry at the Middlesex Hospital in 1928 and munificently endowed a Professorship of Biochemistry, which Dodds held with great distinction for nearly thirty years. His major scientific discovery was that of the synthetic artificial oestrogens, with which he began to obtain successful experimental results in 1933. Shortly afterwards, in collaboration with Sir Robert Robinson and Wilfrid Lawson, he prepared a most active oestrogen - diethyl stilboestrol, which could be readily prepared in quantity and proved active when given by mouth. It had all the physiological effects of natural female sex hormones, and was then found also to have very great value in control of cancer of the prostate gland - the first successful control of human cancer by an orally administered, relatively non-toxic drug.

Confident of his own great abilities, Dodds was reputed arrogant in his youth, but he was always a team-worker and in later years became a very co-operative leader in many fields of medical and related research, serving as chairman of several cancer research bodies, the British Heart Foundation's scientific committee, the Tropical Products Committee of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the Food Purity and Preservation Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture.

His activity on behalf of the Society of Apothecaries led to his Mastership in 1947-49, and he was similarly honoured by his colleagues at the Royal College of Physicians, where he served as Harveian Librarian for some years before becoming President in 1962. He was also from early in his career a consultant to many branches of industry, and most successful in enlisting their support for medical research.

Lady Dodds died in 1969, and he died on 16 December 1973, aged 74, survived by his only son.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1973, 4, 752; Lancet 1973, 2, 1506; Ybk Roy Soc Edin 1975, pp19-23].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England