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Eric Bywaters a life story: 1 June 1910 to 2 April 2003
  1. David Isenberg
  1. Division of Medicine, UCL, Centre for Rheumatology Research, Division of Medicine UCL, London WC1E 6JF, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor David Isenberg, Division of Medicine, UCL, Centre for Rheumatology Research, Division of Medicine UCL, London WC1E 6JF, UK; d.isenberg{at}

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In the early 1990s I regularly attended the Executive and Finance Committee of the charity then known as the Arthritis Research Campaign and was delighted to have the opportunity to meet and talk to Eric Bywaters (figure 1), widely acknowledged as one of the great innovators in British Rheumatology. 1 An early interest in biology at school in Kent led to his entering the now defunct Middlesex Hospital Medical School, from which he qualified in 1933 with a gold medal in pathology. He researched aspects of cartilage structure and function with Sir Charles Dodds at the Courtauld Institute (linked to the Middlesex Hospital) and came to the notice of one of the leading lights of rheumatology in the USA, Walter Bauer, who suggested that if he came to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to work with him, he could move from studying cartilage metabolism in rabbits to that in large cows! This was enough to persuade him to spend about 2 years working in Dr Bauer’s laboratory. While there, he also studied patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, assisted by his wife Betty.

Figure 1

Eric Bywaters in his heyday!.

It was certainly this period which sparked his interest in rheumatology—a subspeciality then barely recognised in the UK. In 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War imminent, he and his wife moved back to London, where he took over a run-down hospital ward at the Hammersmith Hospital, then part of the …

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  • Contributors I am the sole author of this article.

  • 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 and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.