Richard Doll

Sir Richard Doll
Richard Doll.jpg
Richard Doll in 2002
Born(1912-10-28)28 October 1912
Hampton, Middlesex, England
Died24 July 2005(2005-07-24) (aged 92)
Oxford, England
Alma materKing's College London
Known forEpidemiology of smoking Armitage–Doll model
AwardsGairdner Foundation International Award (1970)
Buchanan Medal (1972)
Charles S. Mott Prize (1979)
Royal Medal (1986)
Prince Mahidol Award (1992)
Shaw Prize (2004)
King Faisal International Prize (2005)
Scientific career
InfluencedLouise A. Brinton
Julian Peto
Richard Peto

Sir William Richard Shaboe Doll CH OBE FRS (28 October 1912 – 24 July 2005)[1] was a British physician who became an epidemiologist in the mid-20th century and made important contributions to that discipline. He was a pioneer in research linking smoking to health problems. With Ernst Wynder, Bradford Hill and Evarts Graham, he was credited with being the first to prove that smoking caused lung cancer and increased the risk of heart disease. (German studies had suggested a link as early as the 1920s but were forgotten or ignored until the 1990s.[2][3]) He also carried out pioneering work on the relationship between radiation and leukemia as well as that between asbestos and lung cancer, and alcohol and breast cancer. On 28 June 2012 he was the subject of a series on Radio Four called The New Elizabethans, a programme broadcast to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, dealing with 60 public figures from her reign.[4]


Doll was born at Hampton, Middlesex (now part of south-west London) into an affluent family, though his father's work as a doctor was cut short by multiple sclerosis. Educated first at Westminster School, Doll originally then intended (against the wishes of his parents that he become a doctor like his father) to study mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. Doll claimed to have failed the mathematics scholarship from the effects of drinking 3 pints of the College's 8% alcohol own-brewed beer the night before.[5] He subsequently chose to study medicine at St Thomas's Hospital Medical School, King's College London from where he graduated in 1937. Doll was a socialist, and one of the significant figures in the Socialist Medical Association whose campaign helped lead to the creation of Britain's postwar National Health Service. He joined the Royal College of Physicians after the outbreak of World War II and served for much of the war as a part of the Royal Army Medical Corps on a hospital ship as a medical specialist.

After the war, Doll returned to St Thomas' to research asthma. In 1948 he joined a research team under Dr Francis Avery-Jones at the Central Middlesex Hospital, run under the auspices of the statistical research unit of the Medical Research Council. Over a 21-year career in the unit, Doll rose to become its director. His research there initially focused on the role of occupational factors in causing peptic ulcers.[6] In 1950, he then undertook with Austin Bradford Hill a study of lung cancer patients in 20 London hospitals, at first under the belief that it was due to the new material tarmac, or motor car fumes, but rapidly discovering that tobacco smoking was the only factor they had in common.[7] Doll himself stopped smoking as a result of his findings, published in the British Medical Journal in 1950, which concluded:

The risk of developing the disease increases in proportion to the amount smoked. It may be 50 times as great among those who smoke 25 or more cigarettes a day as among non-smokers.

Four years later, in 1954 the British doctors study, a study of some 40 thousand doctors over 20 years, confirmed the suggestion,[8] based on which the government issued advice that smoking and lung cancer rates were related.

In 1955 Doll reported a case controlled study that has firmly established the relationship between asbestos and lung cancer.[9]

In 1966 Doll was elected to the Royal Society. The citation stated:[10]

Doll is distinguished for his researches in epidemiology, and particularly the epidemiology of cancer where in the last 10 years he has played a prominent part in (a) elucidating the causes of lung cancer in industry (asbestos, nickel & coal tar workers) & more generally, in relation to cigarette smoking, and (b) in the investigation of leukaemia particularly in relation to radiation, where using the mortality of patients treated with radiotherapy he has reached a quantitative estimate of the leukaemogenic effects of such radiation. In clinical medicine he has made carefully controlled trials of treatments for gastric ulcer. He has been awarded the United Nations prize for outstanding research into the causes & control of cancer & the Bisset Hawkins medal of the Royal College of Physicians for his contributions to preventative medicine.

In 1969 Doll moved to Oxford University, to sit as the Regius Professor of Medicine, succeeding the clinical researcher Sir George Pickering.

Initially, epidemiology was held in low regard, but in his time at Oxford he helped reverse this. He was the primary agent behind the creation of Green College, which was founded in 1979. Doll was appointed the first Warden of Green College, from where he retired in 1983. Green College merged with Templeton College in 2008 to become Green Templeton College, which is located on the site that was previously Green College.

Doll also helped found the National Blood Service, and was key in avoiding a system of paying donors for their blood, as had been adopted in the United States. His continued work into carcinogens at the Imperial Cancer Research Centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, working as part of the Clinical Trial Service Unit, notably including a study undertaken with Sir Richard Peto, in which it was estimated that tobacco, along with infections and diet, caused between them three quarters of all cancers, which was the basis of much of the World Health Organization's conclusions on environmental pollution and cancer.

Doll was made a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1966, knighted in 1971, and awarded the Edward Jenner Medal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 1981. Also in 1981, Doll became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[11] In 1996 he was made a Companion of Honour (CH) for "services of national importance". International honours included the Presidential Award of the New York Academy of Sciences as well as a United Nations Award for his research into cancer. In April 2005, he was awarded the Saudi Arabian King Faisal International Prize for medicine jointly with Peto for their work on diseases related to smoking. In 2004, he was awarded the inaugural Shaw Prize for Life Sciences and Medicine for his contribution to modern cancer epidemiology. He was also awarded honorary degrees by thirteen different universities.

He was a supporter of the Liberal Democrats at the 2005 general election.[12]

He died on 24 July 2005, at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford after a short illness.[13]

On 7 June 2015, a blue plaque was unveiled at his home at 12 Rawlinson Road.[14][15]

He was also an atheist.[16]

Other Languages
العربية: ريتشارد دول
تۆرکجه: ریچارد دال
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italiano: Richard Doll
Lëtzebuergesch: Richard Doll
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português: Richard Doll
русский: Долл, Ричард
svenska: Richard Doll