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Biographical entry Spence, Alistair Andrew (1936 - 2015)

CBE 1994; MB ChB Glasgow 1960; FFARCS 1964; MD 1976; MRCP Glas 1979; FRCP Glas 1980; FCAnaes 1984; FRCS Edin 1991; FRCP Edin 1993; FRCS 1994; Hon FDS RCS 1994.

18 September 1936
Prestwick, Scotland
30 November 2015


Alistair Spence was professor of anaesthesia at the University of Edinburgh and honorary consultant anesthetist to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. He was president of the College of Anaesthetists within the Royal College of Surgeons at the time of its attaining Royal status in 1992 and oversaw its departure from the RCS to independent premises.

After qualifying in 1960 and filling junior hospital posts in Glasgow and Leeds, he was appointed as a senior lecturer in anaesthesia at the University of Glasgow at the Western Infirmary in 1969, promoted to reader in 1976 and professor in 1980. In 1984, he was recruited to the chair of anaesthesia in Edinburgh, where he remained until his retirement in 1996. His principal academic interests were the possible adverse effects of anaesthetic agents and postoperative respiratory dysfunction, publishing widely on these topics. He was editor of the British Journal of Anaesthesia from 1973 to 1983.

Spence was long involved with the Faculty of Anaesthesia (later the College and then Royal College), being an examiner, educational adviser, board/council member and president from 1991 to 1994. During his term as the first president of the new Royal College he was privileged to accompany The Queen when she officially opened the new college building in 1993. He was appointed CBE in 1994. He was a Hunterian Professor at the Royal College of Surgeons and gave many other named lectures both at home and overseas. Unsurprisingly, he received numerous honorary awards from anaesthetic societies and faculties throughout the world.

A modest quietly spoken man with an exceptional dry wit which made him in demand as an after-dinner speaker, his main interest outside anaesthesia was golf. But as befits his origin, he was also a connoisseur of malt whisky. Married to Maureen (née Aitchison), he had two sons, Andrew and Stuart. Alistair Spence died on 30 November 2015 aged 79.

Sir Barry Jackson

Sources used to compile this entry: [Royal College of Anaesthetists Lives of the Fellows Dr Alastair Andrew Spence - accessed 30 November 2017; Br J Anaesth. 2016 Apr;116(4):441-3 - accessed 30 November 2017].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England