Macfarlane, Robert Gwyn (1907-1986)

  • Macfarlane, Gwyn, 1907-
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Papers relating to his research, mainly on blood coagulation; notes and drafts for his biographies of Sir Alexander Fleming and Lord Florey.

Macfarlane's work at Oxford in the 1950s with colleagues such as Rosemary Biggs was crucial for the discovery of the blood coagulation mechanism - in particular, his promulgation of the 'cascade hypothesis'. He also pioneered methods for the management of haemophilia including through the purification of the anti-haemophilic factor from human and animal plasma.

After his retirement from clinical research he was able to develop his interest in the history of medicine. He wrote biographies of Howard Florey and Alexander Fleming and the collection also includes material relating to this research.

The majority of the papers relating to his medical research and career were in a series of 27 numbered files. These were, however, not working files, but appear to have been compiled on a semi-subject basis by RGM after his retirement. File titles as ascribed by RGM are given in inverted commas in the list and original file numbers are indicated in italics, but since the order appeared somewhat arbitrary, they have been re-arranged and unnumbered material inserted where appropriate. Personal and biographical material has been placed in a separate section at the beginning of the collection. The material in some files relates exclusively to a particular period of RGM's career, or one aspect of his interests, and these have been grouped together accordingly. Those which contain material of a widely differing nature or time-span, have been placed together in a series of 'subject files'. Likewise, 'general correspondence' files with wide date coverage, have also been grouped separately.



Physical description

12 boxes


A. Personal and biographical c.1918-1992
B. General correspondence 1940-1984
C. Research
C.1 St. Bartholomew's Hospital 1934-1937
C.2 Department of Clinical Pathology, Oxford 1941-1965
C.3 Blood Coagulation Unit, Churchill Hospital, Oxford 1942-1970
C.4 Subject files 1941-1984
D. Societies and Associations 1948-1992
E. Scientific publications 1931-1978
F. Biographies of Florey and Fleming
F.1 Howard Florey, the Making of a Great Scientist (1979)
F.2 Alexander Fleming, the Man and the Myth (1984)

Acquisition note

These papers were bequeathed by Macfarlane [RGM] to the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. The majority were accessioned by the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre on his death in 1987. These were followed by two further small deposits in 1990 and 1994: an envelope of documents which RGM had loaned to RH Dalitz, about the memorial plaque to Florey in Westminster Abbey; and a file of biographical material from RGM's biographer, Alistair Robb-Smith.

Biographical note

Robert Gwyn Macfarlane, CBE, MD, FRCP, FRS (1907-1986): haematologist and biographer
Further biographical information may be found in Alastair Robb-Smith, Life and Achievements of Professor Robert Gwyn Macfarlane FRS: Pioneer in the Care of Haemophilics (London: Royal Society of Medicine, 1993).
1907 Born
1926 Entered St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School
1931 First paper on Haemophilia: 'Haemophilia - a short survey', St Bartholomew's Hospital Journal
1933 Qualified; became a voluntary research assistant , Department of Pathology, Barts; began research into a variety of treatments for haemophilia, including using female hormones
1934 Junior Demonstrator of Pathology, Barts
Examined haemostatic properties of snake venoms; first successful use of Russell's viper venom [produced commercially by Burroughs Wellcome as 'Stypven']
1935 Sir Halley Stewart Research Fellow and Luther Holden Research Scholar, Department of Pathology, Barts
1936 Married Hilary Carson
1936-1939 Assistant Clinical Pathologist, British Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith; research concentrated on haemostasis; devised a piece of equipment to measure clot retraction; researched into fibrinolysis
1938 MD thesis on 'The normal haemostatic mechanism and its failure in the haemorrhagic states' completed
1939-1940 Assistant Bacteriologist, Wellcome Physiological Research Laboratories; continued work on snake venom
1940-1943 Clinical Pathologist, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford
1940 Organised an emergency blood transfusion service for the Oxford region
1941 'The normal haemostatic mechanism and its failure in the haomorrhagic states', Quarterly Journal of Medicine
1942 International Haemophilia Society founded
MRC investigation into the methods of haemoglobinetry began
1944 Radcliffe Lecturer in Haemotology, University of Oxford
1944-1945 RAMC: worked with a mobile bacteriological research laboratory, investigating gas gangrene
1947 MA, University of Oxford
1947 Photo-electric red cell counter devised [Radcliffe Red Cell Counter]
1952 Christmas disease recognised [with Rosemary Biggs and JCF Poole]
1952 MRC Committee to correlate work on haemophilia and related disorders established
1953 Human Blood Coagulation and its Disorders [with Rosemary Biggs]
1954 Foundation of the International Committee on Blood Clotting Factors [aka International Conference for the Standardisation of the Nomenclature of Blood Clotting Factors; changed in 1965 to the International Committee on Haemostasis and Thrombosis]
1954 Haemophilia Society created from International Society
1955 Vice-president of the Haemophilia Society
1956 FRS
1957 Reader in Haemotology, University of Oxford
1959 Director of newly established MRC Blood Coagulation Research Unit, Oxford
1960 FRCP
1963 Fellow of All Souls
1964 CBE
Enzyme cascade hypothesis of blood coagulation put forward in 'An enzyme cascade in the blood clotting mechanism and its function as a biomedical amplifier', Nature
1965 Professor of Clinical Pathology, University of Oxford
1967 Retired; emeritus Professor of Clinical Pathology, Oxford
Oxford Haemophilia Centre established, closely integrated with the Blood Products Laboratory of the Lister Institute at Elstree
1975 Awarded Robert T Grant Medal
1977 Haemophilia Society instigated the RG Macfarlane Award to mark outstanding contributions to the improvement in quality of life for people with haemophilia
1979 Howard Florey, the Making of a Great Scientist
1981 President of the Haemophilia Society
1984 Alexander Fleming, the Man and the Myth
1986 Fellow of Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow
1987 Died
1988 Macfarlane Trust founded to help those haemophilia sufferers who contract AIDS as a result of being treated with infected blood products: Trustees appointed by the Secretary of State for Health and the Haemophilia society

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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