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Derrick Dunlop

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Died  1980
Books  The Problem of Modern Medicines and Their Control: Being the Twelfth Maurice Bloch Lecture Delivered Within the University of Glasgow on 11th February, 1971

Sir Derrick Melville Dunlop FRSE FRCP FRCPE FRCSE FDS LLD QHP (1902-1980) was a senior Scottish physician and pharmacologist at the forefront of British medical administration and policy-making in the late 20th century. He created the Dunlop Committee which investigates the side-effects of all new drugs in the UK.



He was born in Edinburgh on 3 April 1902 the son of Dr George Henry (Harry) Melville Dunlop of 20 Abercromby Place (an expert in child health and physician at the Edinburgh Sick Children’s Hospital) and his wife, Margaret Boog Scott. Derrick attended Edinburgh Academy 1909-1919. He attended Brasenose College at Oxford University and then Edinburgh University gaining an MB ChB in 1926.

He worked briefly in London before returning to Edinburgh to work under Sir Robert Philip on pioneering work regarding the treatment of tuberculosis before taking up the Christison Chair in Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology aged 34, and also concurrently being Senior Physician at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In 1937 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir Robert William Philip, Arthur Logan Turner, Edwin Bramwell, and Sir Sydney Alfred Smith.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1960. In 1961 he was made official Physician to the Queen in Scotland, a post he held until 1965.

He retired from his professorship in 1962. He lived most of his adult life at Bavelaw Castle near Balerno, to the south-west of Edinburgh, just south of Threipmuir Reservoir. In 1963 the British Government asked him to set up and chair a Committee following the thalidomide tragedy. This was called the Committee on the Safety of Medicines. In 1968 he became the first Chairman of the newly created Medicines Commission.

He died in Edinburgh on 9 June 1980.

Awards and Positions Held


  • Sims Commonwealth Travelling Professor (1957)
  • Honorary degree from University of Birmingham
  • Honorary degree from the National University of Ireland
  • Honorary degree from the University of Bradford
  • Honorary Fellow of the American College of Physicians
  • Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford
  • Lumleian and Croonian Lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians
  • Chairman of the British Pharmacopeia Commission 1954-58
  • Junior President of the Royal Medical Society (1925)
  • Bisset Hawkins Medal of the Royal College of Physicians, 1971
  • First Chairman of the Royal Medical Society Trust (1979)
  • Honorary Fellowship in Dental Surgery
  • Director of Winthrop Laboratories
  • Family

    In 1936 he married Marjorie Richardson, eldest daughter of Henry Edward Richardson WS. They had one son and one daughter. His grand-daughter Tessa Dunlop wrote the book To Romania With Love.


    In relation to the thalidomide tragedy he said: “if experts are occasionally wrong they are less often wrong than non-experts ....nevertheless, we interfere with the prescribing doctor’s final freedom of decision at our peril in a free democracy”.


  • The Textbook of Medical Treatment (1939), co-written with Sir Stanley Davidson and Sir John McNee.
  • Clinical Chemistry in Practical Medicine (1954) was co-written with C P Stewart.
  • References

    Derrick Dunlop Wikipedia

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