Ian David Phimester Wootton MA, MB, BChir, PhD; FRSC, FRCPath, FRCP

5 March 1921 – 16 July 2018

A real gentleman who left this world a far better place than he found it (P.Powers)


SunInfo is very sad to report the death of Ian Wootton at the age of 97.   Ian's contribution to the development and operation of the British Sundial Society was considerable but that was just a minor part of his overall contribution to UK life and to clinical biochemistry in particular.  We are indebted to Ian's family for much of which we reproduce here.

Ian was educated at Weymouth Grammar School where his father was the maths teacher. His mother was the first female mayor of Weymouth. Ian won a scholarship to Cambridge to study chemistry and physics but transferred to medicine - it is thought to avoid working on the atomic bomb. He graduated with special commendation from the examiners and was called up into the Royal Army Medical Corps to serve briefly in post-war Egypt rising to the rank of Major. He returned to work as a research assistant at Hammersmith Hospital and the Royal Postgraduate Medical School with Earl King, the founding father of clinical biochemistry in Britain. A brief fellowship in New York during 1951 followed and he returned as Earl Kings registrar and lecturer. 

King’s leadership resulted in 1953 in the formation of the Association of Clinical Biochemists. As his junior colleague, Ian was sent off to the local branch to establish the ACB's bank account and became its first Treasurer. Earl King in the same year steered the foundation of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry with Ian this time taking on the role of secretary. Upon King’s death in 1963, Ian took over the Chair of Chemical Pathology at Hammersmith.

Ian held the role of Chief Scientist for the Department of Health and Social Security from 1972-3 although he always claimed to prefer pathology to politics.  In 1977 he was awarded the Wellcome Prize for his contributions to the quality of laboratory practice.

Ian was a beekeeper, a boat builder and on his retirement in 1982, became a book binder. His lifelong interest in navigation resulted in him becoming Registrar and later Vice Chairman of the recently formed British Sundial Society and he played a major part in encouraging the recording of every sundial in the British Isles. Indeed in this he was particularly innovative by his development of a relational database under Access I which then had just recently been released by Microsoft.  The National Database of Sundials is still the one held by BSS and it is still based on Access - although on a more up to date version. Later, Ian set up the very first Society website, choosing, and then implementing, the Society's three web addresses and acting as its first webmaster.

Ian's interest in dialling encompassed dial design too. At his home by the Thames in Goring in 1988 he designed a unique large brick and slate horizontal dial (pictured) which, as well as solar time, showed both the progress of the seasons and, by using raised bricks, indicated significant family dates. Then during one of several visits to his family who were then living in Australia, Ian was snapped on a beach showing local children how a sundial worked in the Southern hemisphere.   Ian is also known to have designed an east declining vertical memorial dial. It was typical of Ian that although he made great efforts to record the dials of the UK, he would never record his own productions.


His wife and inseparable companion of 67 years, Veryan, died 5 years ago. Also a PhD biochemist, she worked with Sheila Sherlock studying liver metabolism in prisoners of war in post-war Germany. Ian's sons became Professor of Medical Physics at Hammersmith and Associate Professor of Laboratory Medicine in Melbourne. His daughters both had distinguished careers as teachers. Ian’s seven grandchildren have produced four great grandchildren.

Friends and colleagues alike will very much miss Ian's mischievous sense of humour and his ever continuing interest and success in everything that he did.

This web page © P.Powers, 2018.   Our thanks to Ian's family for contributing to the information and for provision of the photographs reproduced here. © S King and A Wootton, 2018.

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