Richard Doll, an epidemiologist who helped identify the association between smoking and lung cancer, died on Sunday 24 July at the age of 92.
William Richard Shaboe Doll was born in 1912 and trained as a doctor at St Thomas’s Hospital, London. He worked as a physician in various London hospitals and with the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War.
In 1948 Doll joined the Medical Research Council and worked with Austin Bradford Hill on an investigation into the rising numbers of deaths from lung cancer. Their research team interviewed hundreds of newly admitted hospital patients and found that those patients who had been diagnosed with lung, liver or bowel cancers were more likely to have smoked than those who were admitted for other reasons. The association between smoking and cancer was reinforced by a long-term study of British doctors, which also found an association between premature death from cancer and a history of smoking.
In collaboration with Richard Peto, Doll continued studying the effects of smoking, identifying, among other things, the association between smoking and other cancers, heart attacks and emphysema, and the dangers posed by passive smoking. Besides his work on smoking, Doll investigated numerous other aspects of health, among them the effects of exposure to asbestos and radiation, and the effects of oral contraception. However, his work on tobacco is remembered as his most significant contribution to world public health, and has been acknowledged by British, American and United Nations honours.
Richard Doll was predeceased by his wife, Joan Faulkner, and is survived by their son and daughter.