John Hardwicke arrow_drop_down

MB BS Lond(1943) BSc(1949) MD Birm(1954) FRCPath(1969) MRCP(1971) FRCP(1980)

05 March 1920 – 30 September 1999

John Hardwicke’s research on the mechanisms of renal disease had a major impact on our understanding of both kidney physiology and renal medicine. He was born into a family where the practice of medicine was well represented; his great grandfather was an apothecary at Bury St Edmunds, his grandfather was a surgeon and his father a general practitioner. John was born at Elgin, Scotland, and educated at Epsom College. He went on to study medicine at St Mary’s, London, where he qualified in 1943. He was house physician to Sir George Pickering [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.464] and later registrar in the penicillin research unit under Sir Alexander Fleming [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.132].

He joined the RAMC and served as a pathologist in West Africa, Italy and Austria. He remained in the Army until 1947, and was demobilized with the rank of captain. He then returned to St Mary’s, to the departments of physiology and pathology on a post-service training grant. Here he gained his honours degree. In 1950 he joined John Squire [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.412] in the new department of experimental pathology in Birmingham, working first as a MRC research fellow, later as lecturer, senior lecturer and reader. He was awarded his MD from Birmingham in 1954 and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 1969. He was appointed to a personal chair in 1967.

John Hardwicke’s research interests always had a clinical slant and encompassed his specialized clinical area of renal disease and his scientific expertise in protein biochemistry. He first went to the department at a time when new serum proteins were being rapidly discovered, as the full potential of electrophonetic and size separations of proteins became realized. He applied these methods to patients presenting with the effect of heavy loss of protein in the urine – the nephrotic syndrome. By detailed records of renal function and protein loss, he, with John Squire, showed that some adults with this syndrome responded to treatment with steroids, as children do, and the adverse effects of protein loss can be reduced by high-protein, low-salt diets. He showed that proteins in urine were an ultrafiltrate of the plasma, with the smaller proteins passed more than the larger ones; he also showed that patients differed in the proportion of larger proteins lost. Later studies with renal biopsy and immunochemical study of the proteins lost showed that the patients who responded to steroids were those with essentially normal renal histology and with highly selective proteinuria. He also produced evidence that some of the protein passing through the glomerulus is reabsorded by the tubule. In connection with his research he wrote a number of joint papers on various types of renal disease, their treatment and on the description and analysis of various body proteins.

John Hardwicke identified very closely with John Squire until the latter’s untimely death. He played a major role in the planning and design of Northwick Park Hospital and the clinical research centre and was to have moved to Northwick Park with Squire. He also undertook a major part in organizing the building of the west extension of the Birmingham Medical School which was achieved in record time. He was very active in later years in committee work in the University, particularly in the medical school. After Philip Gell’s retirement in 1968 he acted as head of the department of immunology until the arrival of the new head of department in 1969. He was an immensely helpful and co-operative colleague and did everything possible to smooth the transition. After retirement in 1982 he carried on part time research work in renal disease in the clinical research block. He also made good use of his knowledge of serum proteins in developing the production of specific antisera in sheep, associated with David Catty and with the technical assistance of Roger Drew, which led on to their large-scale commercial production.

John Hardwicke will be remembered as a clear, lucid and inspiring teacher. Many will recall his helpful and genial personality. With his wife Janette (née Hall), whom he married in 1979, he had a happy retirement at Storridge, near Malvern, where old friends were always welcome.


P G H Gell


Courtesy of Royal College of Physicians London, Munk’s Roll Volume XI, page 243