Lawrence, John Stewart (M.B., Ch.B., M.D., M.R.C.P., F.R.C.P.) 1908 - 1996


Working under the guidance of Professor J.H. Kellgreen, the first professor of rheumatology in the United Kingdom. Lawrence began to look at musculoskeletal complaints in coal miners in the early 1940s. Because of this early work Kellgreen established the Field Survey Unit at Manchester University in 1954.

Kellgreen chose Lawrence to be the first Director of the unit. The work of the two men showed how common osteoarthritis was in the general population. While studying X-rays as part of the research they realised how subjective the interpretation of reading the results of X-rays could be. They produced an Atlas of Standard Radiographs in 1963 which remains an internationally agreed scheme for presenting data from a patient’s X-ray.

Lawrence’s work continued to look at rheumatism from a genetic point of view. He studied families but, rather than basing his conclusions on DNA or molecular biology he compared the characteristics of such families with those of the general population, using careful clinical studies of affected individuals and their families, to obtain the genetic contribution to arthritis risk in the population.

In 1968 he resigned from the Directorship of the Field Unit but continued to study the problem and in 1977 a lifetimes research work was published by him in a work entitled Rheumatism in Populations.