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Doll, Sir Richard (1912-2005)

  • Doll, Richard, Sir, 1912-2005
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


PP/DOL comprises 489 files stored in 61 boxes, spanning the years 1943-98. The collection is organized as follows: A/ Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford; B/ Research; C/ Consultancy; D/ Lectures and Papers; E/ Audio-Visual Resources.

Section A. Correspondence and papers from Doll's period as Regius Professor of Medicine in the University of Oxford (1969-1979). Includes the administration papers of medical departments. During Doll's professorship, most of the planning and development of the John Radcliffe Hospital complex was undertaken, and many of the papers relate to this project, including building specifications and architect's plans as well as numerous reports prepared for committees on which Doll served, including those concerned with the re-organization of Oxford hospital services.

Section B. Papers deriving from the conduct of trials and other epidemiological research. The collection contains material from a range of clinical trials in the field of gastroenterology, conducted initially under Francis Avery Jones at Central Middlesex Hospital. The trials investigated a variety of treatments of ulcers: from an investigation of the influence of smoking, to the role of blood group distribution and family history, from the efficacy of liquorice treatment to the efficacy of intragastric milk drips in uncomplicated gastric ulcer, and from comparative trials to determine rates of healing, to investigating cortisone in ulcerative colitis. Occupational epidemiology is well represented, including material on both vinyl chloride and asbestos. The latter incremental research into the link between asbestos exposure and lung cancer (at the Turner and Newall factory in Rochdale) includes related correspondence, draft papers and original data, beginning with Doll's landmark paper of 1955. Other research-based material includes papers relating to a Medical Research Council trial of mild hypertension (completed in 1985), for which Doll acted as Chair of the Ethical Committee. Papers on smoking and lung cancer are less well-represented: spanning the period 1956-1972, they do not, unfortunately, include papers from formative research conducted with Bradford Hill. Correspondence relating to ISIS-3: Third International Study of Infarct Survival (for which, Doll acted as Chair of the Data Monitoring Committee) can be found at D/3/82, amongst the lecture papers where it was originally filed.

Section C. Doll's international reputation prompted a number of requests for his professional assistance, from both private and public sectors. In addition to formal consultancy conducted in America and Europe, Doll's international lecturing itinerary sometimes incorporated local consultancy - see, for example, D/3/41 (Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Study), D/3/42 (correspondence with Shell Oil, Houston, concerning peer-review of a case-control study of fourteen leukaemia deaths at an oil-refinery), or D/3/54 (a new Centre for population health studies in Tasmania). More extensive consultancy is represented by papers concerning the Spanish Toxic Oil Syndrome: the WHO invited Doll to weigh evidence gathered to determine the cause of the epidemic and prepare an expert report.

Section D. Lecture texts and papers, published and unpublished from 1968 to 1991. Many files contain germane correspondence, notes and background material. For instance, D/1/20 ("Osler's English School") contains brief correspondence with the Dept of Pathology, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford on Osler's post-mortem record; D/1/32 ("Pott and the path to prevention") contains photocopied medical notes of James Chard, chimney sweep (St Batholomew's Hospital, 1848); D/2/28 ("Avoidable cancer: attribution of risk") contains clinical correspondence on beta-carotene; and D/3/24 ("Medical effects of smoking: problems and perspectives") includes correspondence with Austin Bradford Hill on the origins of the prospective study of doctors and their smoking habits. Some additional papers, prior to 1968, can be found in Section B, where they are filed together with contemporaneous research materials.

Section E. Audio and video tapes amongst Doll's papers. A small collection of materials drawn from 1981-1984, including an interview on Japanese television.

The material is chiefly English but has some texts in Spanish (PP/DOL/C/2/1).



Physical description

60 boxes, 1 oversize box


PP/DOL is arranged as follows:

A Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford

B Research

C Consultancy

D Lectures and Papers

E Audio-Visual Resources

All file titles within the above Sections are Doll's unless otherwise indicated by [ ] brackets.

Acquisition note

The papers were accessioned as follows: Accession 899 (26 January, 2001); Accession 835 (3 April, 2000); Accession 662 (16 August, 1996); Accession 622 (24 January, 1996); Accession 449 (12 November, 1992); Accession 411 (12 February, 1992).

Biographical note

Sir (William) Richard Shaboe Doll qualified in medicine at St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, University of London, in 1937. After five years military service, he started research in the field of gastroenterology with Sir Francis Avery Jones at Central Middlesex Hospital in 1946. During the next twenty years, he contributed many papers on the aetiology and treatment of peptic ulcer.

In 1948, he joined the Medical Research Council's Statistical Unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine under Sir Austin Bradford Hill, with the primary objective of investigating the cause(s) of a dramatic increase in the mortality of lung cancer. On Bradford Hill's retirement in 1961, he took over the directorship of the Unit and continued in this post until his appointment, in 1969, as Regius Professor of Medicine in the University of Oxford. Ten years later, in 1979, he became the first Warden of Green College, Oxford, a new College established primarily to serve the special interests of clinical medicine at Oxford. Whilst at Oxford, he directed the Cancer Epidemiology Unit established by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. He continued to work as an honorary member of Sir Richard Peto's research group at Oxford after his retirement in 1983.

Doll's principal research interests were the effects of smoking, ionising radiation, oral contraceptives, and the occupational hazards of cancer. In 1981, he published with Richard Peto a report on the Causes of Cancer at the request of the Office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress. His pre-eminence in the field of epidemiology led to a steady stream of honours and lecture opportunities across the world. He received 15 honorary degrees from the universities at home and abroad, and a number of awards including the Royal Society's Royal Medal, the BMA Gold Medal, General Motors Mott Prize and the UN Award for Cancer Research. Sir Richard Doll was a Foreign Associate of the American Association of Arts & Science and received his OBE in 1956, FRS in 1966, was knighted in 1971, and became a Companion of Honour in 1996. In 2002 Doll was elected a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

Doll died on 24th July 2005, aged 92.

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

Five transfer boxes of material were received in August 2003 (acc.1177), consisting of papers relating to asbestos, the effects of ionizing radiation, man-made minerals, and oral contraceptives, c.1980s-1990s.

Three transfer boxes of material were received in January 2004 (acc.1219), consisting of additional papers, 1986-2003, relating to his role as an expert witness in various cases around the world, including anti-smoking and tobacco litigation against Philip Morris (USA and Australia); Tobacco Medicaid Cost Recovery cases (USA); litigation against Imperial Tobacco Ltd; Gallaher Ltd and Hergall Ltd (UK); atomic testing in Australia 1950s and 1960s; silicone breast implants (USA); asbestos and cancer (Australia). Also includes material relating to a cluster of Down Syndrome births in Dundalk, Ireland.

Two transfer boxes of material were received in June 2004 (acc.1260) , consisting of files covering oral contraceptives, drinking water fluoridization, mustard gas and aluminium workers and incidence of cancers plus other adverse effects of, 1980s-1990s.

Eleven transfer boxes of additional papers were received in September 2005 (acc.1378).

Ownership note

Accession 662 (papers relating to Doll's Regius Professorship at the University of Oxford) was collected via the Bodleian Library, where it was initially stored.


  • English
  • Spanish

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