Roger Edward Collingwood Altounyan FRCP (1922-1987)

  • Altounyan, Dr Roger Edward Collingwood, FRCP (1922-1987) specialist in thoracic medicine
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


This collection consists mainly of material relating to Roger Altounyan's work as a researcher at Fisons (formerly Bengers) Pharmaceuticals. There is a little personal material (Section A) including some items about his family and their hospital in Aleppo. There is correspondence with colleagues and associates (Section B). The files in Section C from his period at Bengers, subsequently Fisons, reflect his work there on various products and in particular his development of sodium cromoglycate (Intal) as a treatment for asthma. A substantial group of material demonstrates his commitment to using himself as a test subject. He gave a large number of lectures and presentations in the UK and internationally and numerous files survive in Section D concerning his speaking engagements. There is a small group of published and unpublished papers (his own and those of colleagues) in Section E but in many instances copies of his (and others') articles are to be found in relevant files in sections C and D.



Physical description

31 boxes, 12 oversize containers


A. Family and personal
B. Correspondence
C. Drug research
C.1 Bengers/Fisons general administrative matters
C.2 Miscellaneous research files
C.3 Intal
C.4 Self-experimentation records
D. Talks, lectures, conference papers
E. Published and unpublished papers by Altounyan and others

Acquisition note

These papers were given to Archives and Manuscripts by Altounyan's former colleague, Dr Alan M Edwards, in 2000; and a few additional items, also by Dr Edwards, in January 2013.

Biographical note

Roger Altounyan was a member of a distinguished Anglo-Armenian family. His grandfather , Assadour Aram Altounyan, had been born in Turkey, studied medicine in the USA and Germany, married an Irish nurse, and founded a hospital in Aleppo, Syria. His father, Ernest Altounyan,continued to run the hospital and had a high reputation as a surgeon. Ernest and his wife Dora, daughter of W G Collingwood, had four children, of whom Roger was the youngest. The Collingwoods were friends with the writer Arthur Ransome and the family spent a holiday in the Lake District with him, leading to the writing of Swallows and Amazons and its sequels, in which the character of Roger Walker of the Swallow was based on Roger Altounyan.

Roger Altounyan was educated at Abbotsholme School, 1932-1939, returning to Syria where he spent a few months at Aleppo College before volunteering for the Royal Air Force, becoming a bomber pilot specialising in low level night flying, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross.

He then studied at Emmanuel College Cambridge and became a medical student at the Middlesex Hospital, at which time he suffered his first asthma attack (having already had serious problems with eczema in childhood). After qualifying as a doctor in 1952 he returned to Syria to work in the family hospital until they were obliged to leave and return to England in 1955.

A Cambridge friend working at Bengers Laboratories in Cheshire (taken over by Fisons a few years later) offered him a job as medical liaison officer, which he combined with working in clinics at Manchester hospitals.This provided him with facilities for conducting experimental work using himself as a human subject, inducing attacks of asthma and testing the effects of various compounds in alleviating or preventing attacks. In 1967 his discovery of the benefits of sodium cromoglycate, based on work officially halted by his employers but continued in secret, led to its approval by the Committee on Safety of Drugs and in 1968 this was launched on the market under the name of Intal. He also developed the Spinhaler device for administering the drug in powder form.

This led to the award of numerous honours in his lifetime as well as posthumous commemoration.

There were obituaries in The Times, 12 Dec 1987, The Lancet, 1988, i., 193, and several other medical journals. There is an entry in Munk's Roll of Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians, VIII, and Altounyan is included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. A number of articles about his work, and obituaries, can be found in PP/RCA/A.4

Related material

GC/253/A/11 Wellcome Witness Seminar, "Childhood Asthma and Beyond"

Copyright note

Copyright assigned

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

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Accession number

  • 879
  • 1968