Walton, John Nicholas 1922 - 2016


(1922-2016), Baron Walton of Detchant, Neurologist

Sir John Nicholas Walton (later Baron Walton of Detchant) was born in Rowlands Gill, County Durham on 16 September 1922. He was educated at Alderman Wraith Grammar School, before studying medicine at Newcastle Medicine School in 1941. After qualifying in 1945, Walton took a position as House Officer at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle. In 1947, Walton was called up into the Army, serving as Embarkation Medical Officer in Glasgow and Southampton, before being promoted to second-in-command of the Hospital Ship Oxfordshire during its deployment in Palestine in 1948.

In 1949, Walton returned to the Royal Victoria Infirmary to become a medical registrar, before turning to a career in neurological research, with positions at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University, and the Neurological Research Unit at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen Square, London. In 1958, he became a consultant neurologist at the University of Newcastle Hospitals, before being invited to take up the first Chair in Neurology at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1968.

From the 1970s onwards, Walton became increasingly involved in political and medical administration, serving as Dean of Medicine at Newcastle from 1971 to 1981 and taking up positions within various committees of the Medical Research Council (MRC), British Medical Association (BMA), and General Medical Council (GMC). He went on to take up a succession of high-profile positions including President of the BMA (1980-1982), President of the GMC (1982-1989), and President of the Royal Society of Medicine (1984-1986).

Walton was knighted in 1979 and given a life peerage in 1989. He sat on a number of committees within the House of Lords, including the Science of Technology Committee and the Medical Ethics Committee.

Walton married Betty Harrison in 1946, with whom he had three children. He died on 21 April 2016.