The death, aged 92, of Sir Richard Doll on July 24th, 2005 robbed the world of one of its greatest benefactors and the medical profession of one of its modern giants.

The son of a GP, Doll was educated at Westminster School and St Thomas’s Hospital, graduating in 1937. During his war service he developed a tuberculosis kidney but had successful surgery, allowing him to pursue his chosen career of ‘prevention rather than cure’. He first researched asthma before joining Francis Avery Jones’ unit at the Central Middlesex Hospital looking at peptic ulceration His attachment to Sir Austen Bradford-Hill’s statistical research unit of the Medical Research Council led to him becoming a member, then deputy director and director of that unit over 21 years. His research demonstrating the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer must have saved thousands if not millions of lives worldwide. Other research topics included the effect of alcohol on unborn babies and side effects of the birth pill.

He was Regius Professor of Medicine, Oxford University 1969- 79, served as vice-president of the Royal Society 1970-71, was knighted in 1971 and made a Companion of Honour in 1996, as well as receiving innumerable international honours and no less than 13 honorary degrees.

Until her death in 2001 he was wonderfully supported by his wife, Dr Joan Faulkner, especially in his efforts to establish Green College. Described as ‘tall, slim, patrician in bearing and often sharply critical,’ he could be formidable but at the same time had a great sense of humour. He will be remembered as a great doctor and the greatest epidemiologist of our time.