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Wilson, Philip Alexander Poole- (1943–2009), cardiologist and clinical scientist, was born on 26 April 1943 at the London Welbeck Hospital, 27 Welbeck Street, Marylebone, London, the younger son of Denis Smith Poole-Wilson (1904–1998), surgeon, and his wife, Monique Michelle, née Goss (1912–1985). At the time of his birth his father was serving as a lieutenant-colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps; he later embarked on a distinguished career as a urologist, and served as president of the British Association of Urological Surgeons from 1965 to 1967. Poole-Wilson was brought up in Hale, Cheshire, and was educated as a scholar at Marlborough College, where he excelled at rugby and cricket as well as academically. He went on, again as a scholar, to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a first in part 1 of the natural sciences tripos and then studied physiology under the Nobel prize winner Alan Hodgkin for part 2. He graduated in 1963 and completed his medical studies at St Thomas's Hospital medical school, London, where he qualified MB BChir in 1967. On 25 October 1969 he married Mary Elizabeth Tattersall, nurse and health visitor, and daughter of William Horrocks Tattersall, consultant chest physician. They had two sons, William and Michael, and one daughter, Œnone.

After house appointments at the Brompton and Hammersmith hospitals, Poole-Wilson returned to St Thomas's as a registrar in 1971, becoming a lecturer the following year. During this time he embarked on research for his Cambridge MD on the movement of hydrogen, potassium, and calcium ions in heart muscle. In 1973–4 he spent fifteen months at the University of California, Los Angeles, with a British–American travelling fellowship, where he worked with Glenn Langer and Ken Shine. Declining offers of posts in the United States, he returned to St Thomas's until in 1976 he moved to the Cardiothoracic Institute (later the National Heart and Lung Institute) of the University of London as a senior lecturer, and simultaneously became an honorary consultant physician at the National Heart Hospital. He became a reader in the University of London in 1980, and professor of cardiology in 1982. In 1988 he became British Heart Foundation Simon Marks professor of cardiology at the National Heart and Lung Institute and, following the merger the same year between the National Heart Hospital and the Brompton Hospital, honorary consultant physician at the Brompton (from 1991 the Royal Brompton). When the National Heart and Lung Institute became a division of the faculty of medicine of Imperial College, London, in 1997, he became the faculty's first head of cardiac medicine (retaining his consultancy at the Royal Brompton). He held these positions until his retirement towards the end of 2008.

Poole-Wilson was internationally recognized as one of the leading cardiologists of his generation, combining excellence in research and teaching with clinical work and public education at a time when the discipline of cardiology was being rapidly transformed. As he later said, at the time he embarked on his career, ‘Clinical thinking had not yet moved into the metabolic era, and attempts to understand the function and biochemistry of the heart under normal conditions and in disease states were still in their infancy’ (Shurlock, f45). His own research ranged from work on the behaviour of heart muscle cells, the movement of chemicals across cell membranes, and the biochemical bases for heart-muscle contraction, through large-scale epidemiological studies, to randomized control trials investigating the efficacy of treatments including beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. His research was particularly important in highlighting the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, and in transforming perceptions of heart failure from a vaguely defined end-stage condition to a complex syndrome underlying and causing many other conditions. In later years he became intrigued by a number of emerging areas in heart failure research. These included surgical strategies and the development of left ventricular assist devices, and the intellectual challenges of how to run appropriately designed research trials to test these new surgical devices in contrast to the pharmacological interventions he had trialled for most of his career. The emergence of the concept of biological cardiac repair and self-repair fascinated him, and he helped Imperial College to become a leading international centre for cardiac stem cell and gene therapy research, although sadly he never saw the first translation of cardiac gene therapy in his heart failure patients at the Brompton. In total he published more than 500 scientific papers, contributed to more than 100 books, and was on the editorial boards of some 30 journals. He was also an editor of the well-known textbooks, Desmond Julian's Diseases of the Heart (2nd edn, 1996) and Hurst's the Heart (12th edn, 2008). As a teacher he supervised more than 50 higher degree students, including 29 who went on to occupy chairs in cardiology around the world. He was approachable to his junior staff and research scientists in the most wonderfully relaxed and unimposing manner, and would always show genuine interest and delight in the latest set of results or novel hypothesis proposed by students working in his labs. As a clinician, his kindness and his interest in other people were much appreciated by the patients on his ward rounds. Throughout his career he was an employee of the university, and never did any private practice.

As secretary then president (1994–6) of the European Society of Cardiology, Poole-Wilson oversaw a significant expansion of the society's membership and was involved in the building of a new headquarters in Nice. In 1999 he was founding chairman of the British Society for Heart Failure, which was set up to draw attention to the problem of degenerative heart disease, promote research into and disseminate knowledge of the condition among health-care professionals, and improve standards of care for patients. He was also much interested in the problem of cardiovascular disease in developing countries, which caused more deaths but attracted far less attention than many infectious diseases; as an active member and president (2003–4) of the World Heart Federation he did much to raise the profile, and highlight best practice treatments, of heart disease in India and other countries in the developing world.

Poole-Wilson received many honours, including the gold medal of the European Society of Cardiology (1996), the prix Europe de médicine of the Institut des Sciences de la Santé, Paris (2001), the Mackenzie medal of the British Cardiovascular Society (2007), and honorary membership of thirteen overseas societies of cardiology. He was described by one colleague as ‘meticulously logical, unfailingly kind, a gentle man seeing the best that could be got out of every individual and every situation’ (BMJ, 25 April 2009, 1013). He seldom refused a request, and consequently had little free time; but in what little he had, he enjoyed gardening, ornithology, sailing, and the opera. During his brief retirement he continued to lecture, teach, and attend meetings, and described himself as still ‘really rather busy’ (Shurlock, f48). He lived from 1982 in Dulwich, with a holiday cottage from 1998 in Wiltshire, and died at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London, on 4 March 2009, following a heart attack sustained while on his way to give a lecture. He was survived by his wife, Mary, and their three children. His funeral was held in Dulwich, and was followed by a reception in Dulwich Picture Gallery. A thanksgiving service was held at St Luke's Church, Chelsea, on 4 June 2009.

Alex May

Sources  

B. Shurlock, ‘Pioneer in cardiology: Philip Poole-Wilson’, Circulation (3 March 2009), f.43–f.48 · The Times (13 March 2009) · The Independent (16 March 2009) · Daily Telegraph (25 March 2009) · The Guardian (8 April 2009) · The Lancet (18 April 2009) · BMJ (25 April 2009) · Cardiology News (April 2009) · Journal of Heart Failure, 11 (2009), 529 · Munk, Roll; munksroll.rcplondon.ac.uk/Biography/Details/6110, accessed on 23 July 2012 · WW (2009) · private information (2013) [Mary Poole-Wilson, widow; A. Lyon] · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.

Likenesses  

obituary photographs