Designatory Letters: 
MB Edin 1951, MRCPath 1964, FRCPath 1975, FRSE, CBE

(Contributed by Professor Ian Gould)

Professor Collee (Gerry, as he was known) established himself as an eminent microbiologist in academic circles, as an influential teacher to his students and as an extremely polite, courteous and friendly man to his wide circle of friends.

The son of a dentist, Gerry went first to Bo’ness Academy, then the Edinburgh Academy and then, at the age of 16, to the Edinburgh Medical School at the end of the Second World War. After house jobs at Roodlands General, stints in the Royal Army Medical Corps and general practice in the north of England, he returned to Edinburgh in 1955 as a lecturer in the Department of Bacteriology under Robert Cruickshank and he won the Gold Medal in 1962 for his MD thesis. A travelling scholarship then took him to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and to Baroda in 1964. He became a founder member of the Royal College of Pathologists and gained a personal Chair in 1974, elevated to the Robert Irvine Chair in 1979.

From his early research work, Gerry had an interest in the unfashionable area of anaerobic bacteriology. His extremely careful and methodical work led to scores of well-written scientific publications displaying his talent for the written word and eye for detail that would also be evident both in his editorial work, latterly as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Medical Microbiology and Mackie & McCartney’s textbook Practical Medical Microbiology, and in five published volumes of poetry.

His work on anaerobic infections, such as those caused by the spore forming Clostridia and the gram negative Bacteroides, ensured great expertise in his department when infection with C difficile became recognised as a major drawback of the antimicrobial era. With his literary talents, Gerry was always at pains to emphasise the correct pronunciation of a hard ‘c’ in ‘difficile’ although, to this day, the word is commonly mispronounced.

In his later years, Gerry was in national and international demand for his expertise, culminating in becoming a FRCPE, a FRSE and a CBE. Although anaerobic work was his first love, Gerry had many other academic strings to his bow such as work in the rapidly expanding areas of antibiotics, vaccination and food borne diseases. He served on the Committee on Safety of Medicines, was an advisor to the Scottish Home and Health Department and a member of many government advisory committees such as those on infection control, laboratory safety, genetic manipulations, and vaccination and immunisation. He was also Academic Head of Department and Chief Bacteriologist to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In his retirement, he developed widespread interests in artistic endeavours, including as a painter and a poet, and was often to be found playing fiddle in a Scottish folk band in Aberfeldy, near where he had a country cottage.

Gerry is survived by his first wife, Isobel, and his companion in later years, Doreen Mackie. He is also survived by his three children, all of whom studied medicine in Edinburgh. Two now live in Australia – Carol is a GP and John a successful novelist and screenwriter. His other son George is an anaesthetist in London.