Bill Keatinge, 1931-2008

May 15, 2008

Bill Keatinge had a lifelong fascination with the body's ability to cope with extremes. Whenever a heat wave or a cold snap hit, the professor of physiology was sure to be called upon by the media for his expert opinion.

"He regularly appeared on the BBC when there was a heat wave or a very cold winter," said Margaret Bird, professor of anatomical studies at Bart's and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary, University of London. "He was keen on advising people to wear a hat in cold weather because he said 25 per cent of heat loss was through your head."

Professor Keatinge was born on 18 May 1931. He studied medicine at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and at St Thomas' Hospital in London.

During his National Service with the Navy in Cambridge (1956-58) he worked with divers. This sparked his interest in how diving affected the body. "From that, he developed a lifelong interest in extremes," Professor Bird said.

After National Service, Professor Keatinge took up the post of director of studies in medicine and junior fellow at Pembroke College, and then spent time in San Francisco as a Fulbright scholar.

He returned to England to a Medical Research Council post and a fellowship at Pembroke. He joined the department of physiology at the London Hospital Medical College in 1969 and became head of department in 1981.

After the merger of LHMC and St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College with Queen Mary and Westfield College, he became dean of the faculty of basic medical sciences at the institution (now Queen Mary, University of London), a post he held until 1994.

Professor Keatinge's publications included articles on survival in cold water, and he kept a vast water tank in his laboratory. Projects he co-ordinated included the European Union-funded "Eurowinter" study, which looked at cold's impact on public health across eight countries. He worked on many international collaborations with Russia and learnt to speak Russian.

Professor Keatinge retired in 1995, but he continued to attract grant funding and to pursue his research. He worked until a few weeks before his death, aged 76, on 11 April, despite battling with cancer, and completed writing up his final projects.

Professor Bird said: "He was really very much of the old school, a gentleman. He was quiet, and not showy at all."

His hobbies included sailing, and he had a keen interest in the Classics and the antiquities.

Professor Keatinge outlived his first wife, Annette Hegarty, with whom he had three children. He is survived by his second wife, Lynette Nelson, and his children.

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