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Ralph C Williams Jr and the world of rheumatology: a tribute from Sweden
  1. Frank A Wollheim1,
  2. Göran Kronvall2
  1. 1 Rheumatology, Lund University Hospital, Lund, Sweden
  2. 2 Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Professor Frank A Wollheim, Rheumatology, Lund University Hospital, 22185 Lund, Sweden; frank.wollheim{at}

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Ralph C Williams Jr (Ralph) passed away peacefully on 2 February 2020 in Santa Fe in his 92nd year. In 1963, Ralph was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Minnesota and created its first academic rheumatology unit. From the start, he would always have one foreign assistant in his unit for 1 or 2 years. Several of them were Scandinavians. These included Gunnar Husby and Ove Mellbye from Norway and Allan Wiik from Denmark. We were fortunate to spend 2 years each in his unit in 1963–1965 (FAW) and 1968–1969 (GK). This changed our lives and we are grateful to be allowed to communicate some memories and highlights of his contributions to international rheumatology in this journal.

As a schoolboy, Ralph enjoyed drawing and singing in the school’s choir. In high school, he was inclined to become an artist. Ralph’s father was Dr Ralph C Williams, a high-ranking army officer and Assistant Surgeon General (figure 1). He was opposed to the idea that his only child should become an artist. When the art teacher convinced the parents of the boy’s talent, their resistance ended, but by then Ralph had changed his mind in favour of becoming a doctor. Ralph entered Cornell University in Ithaca in 1946 and graduated with honours in 1950 after having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa during his junior year. He entered Cornell University Medical School in 1950 and finished as first in class in 1954. During his years in the college, he was a tenor in its choir. At one concert he was the soloist. In the audience was another student named Mary Elizabeth Adams. She did not know the soloist, but fell in love with his voice. Feelings became mutual and in 1951 they were married and Mary gave up …

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  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Contributors Both contributed.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.