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Renowned experts retire from the University of Aberdeen

Two of the University of Aberdeen's most highly respected Professors are retiring today (Tuesday, October 7). Professors Hugh Pennington and Anthony Seaton retire with emeritus status after nearly 40 years of distinguished service for the University.

Professor Hugh Pennington is one of the few members of the University who can be said to be known by almost every household not only in Aberdeen but in Scotland and the UK. He is informed, understandable and seen by the media and the public as a man who knows his subject and can be trusted to give the public an honest view.

Professor Pennington's position as Professor of Bacteriology at the University has been held with high regard. In 1979 he was appointed to the Chair of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen and his research in Aberdeen focused on the development of new and improved typing ('fingerprinting') methods for bacteria. Over the last few years he has written widely on a number of subjects. These include a commentary on the recent SARs outbreak (with its origins from China) and a comparison with syphilis (whose origins were thought to stem from France), BSE (mad cow disease), smallpox, anthrax and their potential use in bio-terrorism, the retention of human organs and the Bristol Heart surgery enquiry.

Professor Pennington's academic and clinical skills and foresight were harnessed to the benefit of the nation, at the request of the Secretary of State for Scotland, through his appointment as Chairman of the Expert Group into the inquiry into the E.coli 0157 outbreak of food poisoning in Central Scotland in 1996. He has also made an outstanding contribution to the science and practice of medical microbiology, to the health of the nation and to public understanding of science. In recognition of these achievements, he was conferred an honorary degree earlier this year from the University. He has just newly been appointed as President of the Society for General Microbiology, the UK's largest microbiological society.

He is sorry to leave his post at a time when the emergence and spread of killer viruses prove that not all the lessons of history have been learnt. Speaking on his retirement, Professor Pennington, said: "I qualified in
medicine 41 years ago and have enjoyed an extremely varied career working for the University of Aberdeen."

Professor Pennington has newly written a book, When Food Kills, which is published by Oxford University Press. The book covers history, politics and the law as well as science - and the connections it makes, like those between 1930's nuclear physics, E.coli, and molecular biology, and the links between manslaughter in 19th century mental hospitals, syphilis, the Nobel Prize, and the prospects for successfully treating vCJD.

Also retiring from the University is Professor Anthony Seaton CBE, who joined the University in 1988 and whose role was Head of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine until December 2002. He held a Departmental Chair and was an Honorary Consultant Physician with Aberdeen Royal Hospitals.

He joined the Department in 1988 after many years as Director of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh. In his earlier career he had been a consultant chest physician and had edited the medical journal Thorax. From 1991 to 2001 he served as the first Chairman of the UK Government's Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards, a role in which he led the development of all the current Standards for control of air pollution in Britain. His past research has led to standards to protect workers in the coal, asbestos, wool and chemical industries, and the aim of his research has always been to demonstrate practical methods of disease prevention. In Aberdeen with his colleagues he has proposed new concepts of the causation of asthma and of the relationships between heart disease and cancer. He was appointed CBE for his services to medicine in 1998.

Speaking on his retirement, Professor Seaton, said: "The measure of a successful career is whether it has made a difference. It would be nice to think that I have made some improvements to the prospects of workers in industry but, just in case, I do not intend to stop trying now just because I am drawing my pension. I shall continue to collaborate with my excellent colleagues here and in Edinburgh as long as I am able."

Professor Jon Ayres will take over Professor Seaton's role as Head of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine and Dr Hamish McKenzie will take over as Head of Department of Medical Microbiology.

 

ENDS


Notes to Editors

Photo opportunity:
TV cameras, press photographers and members of the media are invited to attend a photo/interview opportunity with Professors Hugh Pennington and Anthony Seaton arranged for today (Tuesday, October 7) to be held at 2.45pm in the Med Chi Hall and Chamber, Foresterhill. Later, Professor Pennington will be giving a presentation at 4.10pm and Professor Seaton at 4.25pm. Professor Stephen Logan, Dean and Provost, will give a presentation to the retirees at 4.45pm. Members of the media are welcome to attend the photo opportunity or to attend the presentations today.

Biographical details - Professor Hugh Pennington

Professor Pennington MBBS, PhD, DSc, FRCPath, FRCP (Edin) FMedSci, FRSE, Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen. He graduated in medicine with honours from St Thomas's Hospital Medical School in 1962 and PhD in 1967. After various posts there, he spent a year at the University of Wisconsin before moving in 1969 to the Institute of Virology in Glasgow. His research there was on vaccinia and smallpox viruses, hepatitis B virus, and influenza virus and its relatives. In 1979 he was appointed to the Chair of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen. His research in Aberdeen focused on the development of new and improved typing ('fingerprinting') methods for bacteria. He was Dean of the Medical School from 1987-92. He chaired the Pennington Group enquiry for the Secretary of State for Scotland into the 1996 outbreak of E.coli O157 infection in central Scotland. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and has received honorary DSc degrees from the universities of Lancaster, Strathclyde and Aberdeen. He is a member of the Scottish Food Advisory Committee of the Food Standards Agency and the World Food Programme Technical Advisory Group, and is Vice Chair of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland (advising the BBC), and President of the Society for General Microbiology.


Biographical details - Professor Anthony Seaton

Professor Anthony Seaton CBE, MB BChir, MD, FRCP (London), FRCP (Edinburgh), FFOM, FMedSci was head of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine until December 2002. He holds a departmental chair and is an honorary consultant physician with Aberdeen Royal Hospitals. He joined the department in 1988 after many years as the director of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh. He has also held teaching and consultant posts at Edinburgh University. Professor Seaton graduated in Medicine in 1962 from Cambridge and Liverpool universities. He progressed to Assistant Professor of Medicine at West Virginia University USA where he further developed his interests in respiratory medicine and the links between occupational exposures and ill-health. He was the editor of the journal Thorax from 1976-82 and is presently an examiner for both the UK Royal Colleges of Physicians and Faculty of Occupational Medicine. He has a variety of research interests including the development of asthma, the neurotoxicity of paint solvents, the biological effects of air pollution and the interaction of environmental exposures and genetic factors on the development of disease processes. He served as chairman on the department of environment's expert panel on air quality standards (EPAQS) from the time of its institution in 1991 until December 2001. Professor Seaton has overseen the production of eleven reports from EPAQS, the first two being on Benzene and Ozone in 1994 and the most recent on Particles in 2001. He is a member of the department of health's committee on medical aspects of air pollution and was the president of the British Thoracic Society in 1999.




Issued by the Communications Office, External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen.
Tel: (01224) 272960 Fax: (01224) 272086. Contact: Angela Ferguson

 

Ref: 1241pennington&seaton
October 7, 2003