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Prof. Roger Cotton

15 September 1926 - 15 March 2006

Roger Cotton, Emeritus Consultant Pathologist at the City Hospital, Nottingham and Special Professor of Diagnostic Oncology in the University of Nottingham, died peacefully at the City Hospital on 15th March 2006.

Roger Cotton was the Founding Editor of Histopathology, serving from 1977–1985. Whilst he was President-Elect of the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology (BDIAP) the Division was approached by Blackwell Scientific with a proposal for a journal devoted to the practice of diagnostic histopathology. Blackwell was prepared to invest a signifi cant sum of money into the launch of the journal, at no risk to the society. Although some colleagues expressed doubts about the wisdom of proceeding with the venture, Council took the plunge and agreed unanimously that Roger Cotton be appointed as Editor.

The first issue appeared in January 1977 and, thanks to Roger’s expertise and the high production standards linked to excellent marketing from Blackwell, the journal was an immediate success. From the outset he was keen not to restrict publication of papers to BDIAP member countries alone and, as a result, Histopathology has always had a truly international flavour. It went very rapidly from 6 to 12 issues per year without sacrificing quality, in order to publish all the papers accepted by referees. The journal made a profit in its fi rst year, which was very unusual for a new scientific journal at that time, and has continued to do so ever since, providing the British Division with much needed financial stability. It is no exaggeration to say that Roger Cotton played a pivotal role in ensuring that Histopathology is one of the leading diagnostic histopathology journals in the world. Indeed, this was recognised in 2003, when the current Editor, Professor Michael Wells, introduced an award for the best paper published each year in Histopathology, named the ‘Roger Cotton Histopathology Prize’.

Roger was born on 15th September 1926 in Bolton, Lancashire. The family then moved to Derby and he was educated at Derby School. He decided on a career in Medicine and received his undergraduate training at the Middlesex Hospital, London, graduating in 1949. Following National Service in the Royal Air Force he returned to the Middlesex Hospital as a Lecturer, for his Pathology training at the Bland-Sutton Institute under Robert Scarff. In 1959 he spent an enjoyable and productive year in the United States, as a visiting professor in the Department of Pathology at the North Western University, Chicago. A year after his return to the Middlesex as a Senior Lecturer he was awarded an MD in the University of London for his thesis entitled ‘The bronchial spread of lung cancer’.

It was at this time that he fi rst became involved in medical publishing. Together with his colleague Drew Thompson, he wrote the enormously successful ‘Lecture Notes in Pathology’ based on their popular Pathology course at the Middlesex and first published by Blackwell in 1962. This book was used by generations of undergraduates for revision for Pathology Finals and, incidentally, by some of us for the Primary MRCPath examination! The 4th and final edition was published in 1992.

In 1963 Roger became a founder member of the newly formed College of Pathologists. Later that year he made the momentous decision to leave his alma mater when he was appointed as Consultant Pathologist at the City Hospital, Nottingham. This was a great opportunity to establish a department almost from scratch, but it was also a huge challenge. For the first year or so he was virtually single-handed, the accommodation was sub-standard and there were very few technical staff. Fortunately, he was blessed with considerable energy and drive and this, coupled with the establishment of the University of Nottingham Medical School, enabled him to expand and enhance the department, introducing a cervical cytology screening service, renal pathology and undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. He also fostered close and cordial relationships with clinical colleagues, so that informal multidisciplinary meetings were held in the City Hospital long before they became mandatory.

When he retired, in 1990, there were 10 consultant histopathologists, a staff of nearly 100 and the department had established a national and international reputation.

At the same time he worked tirelessly for the good of the City Hospital and its partnership with the Medical School, ensuring that clinical areas were improved and leading the planning of the Postgraduate Medical Centre. He served as Chairman of the Medical Staff Committee from 1974–1976 and was Vice Chairman of the Nottinghamshire Area Health Authority from 1979–1982. His contribution to undergraduate and postgraduate training was recognised in 1974 by his appointment as Special Professor of Diagnostic Oncology in the University of Nottingham.

Since his time at the Middlesex Hospital Roger Cotton had been a keen supporter of the British Division of the International Academy of Pathology. He served as a Councillor from 1969 to 1972, was made President-Elect in 1975 and became President in 1977–1978. Whilst he was President he was also made a European Vice-President of the International Academy of Pathology (IAP) and, through this position, was able to infl uence and extend the educational activities of the parent organisation, especially in less developed countries. Indeed, such was the high regard in which he was held for his role in taking the IAP forward that he was elected as President, serving from 1982–1984.

The BDIAP has received many tributes to Roger from colleagues in the IAP; Nathan Kaufman from Canada, a past President himself, remembers Roger’s Presidency with great respect – ‘ he was President during a period of growth and the accompanying challenges, which he confronted with calm deliberation…. he furthered collegiality among pathologists from different countries; this made him a great and respected ambassador for the IAP’.

Roger Cotton’s contribution to the British Division was recognised by the award of the Cunningham Medal in 1984 and, in 1998, he was presented with the Gold Medal of the International Academy of Pathology for ‘long and distinguished service’.

Following his retirement from the City Hospital in 1990 Roger maintained his interest in postgraduate pathology education, developed during his International Presidency and undertook a series of lecture tours in Africa and South East Asia including a number of Visiting Professorships. These were greatly appreciated by the many pathologists who were delighted to meet the renowned first editor of Histopathology!

Prof. Chris Elston