Describing himself as never single-mindedly pursuing one line to the exclusion of others David does himself a disservice. I first met him in the 1970s when I attracted him to come across to my Department at Hope Hospital from our rival, the Manchester Royal Infirmary, much to their concern. It was immediately obvious that here was a man who pursued whatever motivated him at the time with a steely determination that brooked no opposition. He fought against anyone and anything that seemed to him to smell of illogicality or cant. And he fearlessly said it like it is in a way that was both stimulating and intimidating if you were not on the same wave length. Always entertaining, his boyish charm won most people over; but fools were left wondering where they had gone wrong.
He always then and ever after took up his enthusiasms with enormous gusto. As he says, he may not have followed any one line single-mindedly, but any line that he did take up was followed without the least hint of deviation. Any opposition stimulated rather than deterred him. And his highly tuned sense of justice meant that he took on many difficult causes without any fear, sometimes much to his own disadvantage. It was this idea, that right would always win in the end, that led him to tilt his windmill at the Dean and later Vice Chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Arthur Li. Here was one of the most powerful and politically astute men in Hong Kong whose ruthless manipulations of the system meant that David could not win. But that never deterred him and David describes well the battles and underhand tactics Li employed and to which David never yielded.
His keen sense of justice later led him into battle across a much broader field when he pulled every stop he could to defend Amanda Knox and her then boy friend, Raffaelo Sollecito, accused of the murder of her flat mate in Italy. He went to extraordinary lengths to expose the failures in the Italian judicial system and even wrote a book on this and other miscarriages of justice.
But this only gives a part of the picture of a man who picks up interests that may be a part time hobby for some but for him are all consuming. China and its history fascinates him. This led him into the field of Chinese ceramics and jade. Unsurprisingly his studies of jade were pursued with an academic’s forensic skill that has resulted in a learned and well regarded book. His studies of craters in China and what caused them and the wider field of geology has occupied his attention more recently. And all this while a Professor of Endocrinology and a practicing clinician who made vitally important contributions in the treatment of Paget’s disease, the management of diabetes and in the understanding of the actions of sex hormones. Furthermore his enthusiasm for medical education led him into producing a highly regarded series of video based teaching aids, inevitably against opposition that brought out the best in him in the sport of uphill struggles.
Never still, he has moved around the world, from Scotland, to London, America, Manchester, Hong Kong and now to Umbria to live with a variety of ex-pats in a place to which, he says, nobody comes because they are normal. Here is an exciting life that David describes with great gusto. It is a highly entertaining account of a life lived to the full, in and out of Medicine. Where, one wonders, will it lead this restless man to next and what sort of nuisance will he bring to wherever that is? It is a great read especially for those who may think that a medical career is dull..
Leslie A Turnberg.