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Dr Gordon Lawson, PhD, 1965, (died January, 2018, aged 86)

Extract from the article in Pig Progress. A full version of this article is available here.

Dr Gordon Lawson was a brilliant microbiologist, and a modest man, despite a distinguished professional life in veterinary research and teaching, culminating in recognition of his scientific excellence through his appointment as head of veterinary pathology and ‘reader’ at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (RDSVS), near Edinburgh, Scotland, which is now a state-of-the-art research hub that incorporates the Roslin Institute, of ‘Dolly the Sheep’ fame, the first cloned mammal.

Dr Lawson started his scientific career with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Edinburgh University, followed by a veterinary degree at the RDSVS, universally known as the ‘Dick Vet’. He achieved his PhD in pig Salmonella from Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he was recognised as one of the brightest postgraduate students of his generation.

After a few years in large and small animal veterinary practice in Inverness, Scotland, he returned to Northern Ireland for a decade with the UK Ministry of Agriculture Veterinary Services as first, research officer and then senior research officer.

In 1966, he joined the pathology department of the Dick Vet, where he remained until his retirement in 1996. During his 30 years at the Edinburgh school, Dr Lawson made outstanding contributions to veterinary microbiology, starting with the development of high quality bacteriological services to the pathology department and to the local veterinary and farming communities, as well as excellent ‘hands on’ microbiology teaching programmes for countless undergraduate and post-graduate students, and culminating with his internationally recognised scientific investigations on the porcine ileitis disease complex.

Porcine ileitis is recognised today as an infectious disease of pigs (and other species, including horses), caused by Lawsonia intracellullaris, an organism that is responsible for a number of gut-related pathological syndromes.

Dr Lawson’s contribution to cracking the porcine ileitis puzzle is an amazing feat of research in microbiology, especially taking into consideration the relative absence of sophisticated molecular tools in the 1970s and 1980s.

In his private life, Dr Lawson was a devoted husband and father, who enjoyed solitary and peaceful pursuits such as windsurfing. He was also an accomplished painter of beautiful and precise watercolour landscapes. His eye for detail extended from his professional to his private life.

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