Gaston Lennox Pawan (2nd Jan 1921 - 7th Feb 2003)

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Dr Gaston Pawan was an outstanding medical researcher and educator. An expert on nutrition, metabolism and obesity, he published 143 papers in prestigious medical and scientific journals and lectured worldwide. He was the first to isolate the Fat Mobilising Substance1 (FMS) and to show (on himself) the biological activity of aldosterone2. He studied the metabolic response of the first patient treated with aldosterone in 1954. Breaking new ground, he studied the first obese human subjects to receive a course of treatment with FMS in 1968. Other published research explored aspects of nutrition and metabolism in relation to endocrinology3, nephrology4, pharmacology5, alcohol and anorexia nervosa. Dr Robert Atkins made use of Pawan’s research when developing his famous and controversial Atkins Diet6.

Gaston Lennox Stephen Pawan was born on 2nd January 1921, the only son of the renowned Dr Joseph Lennox Pawan. He was educated at St. Mary’s College, where he was inspired by Fr. Leonard Graf and excelled academically. He was also a noted sportsman in cricket, boxing and weightlifting. In 1939, he joined the Colonial Service as a trainee, assisting in food and drugs analysis. From 1942 to 1944, he was engaged in active war service in the Atlantic. His ship was torpedoed and he was one of only three from the crew of 80 to survive.

In 1945, Pawan went off to England to pursue his higher education. In 1948, he began at the Medical Unit, Middlesex Hospital in London as a research assistant under the direction of Professor Alan Kekwick. He studied part-time at the School of Clinical Medicine at University of Cambridge, obtaining his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBChir) in 1949, and in 1951 a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Chemistry, Physiology and Anatomy from the University of London. His research focused on metabolic and nutritional disorders. In 1957, he received a PhD in Medicine from the University of Cambridge for Metabolic Studies in Obesity, a work that is still amongst the most widely used in the world.

While in London, he was appointed Lecturer and Research Biochemist in the Department of Medicine at the Middlesex Hospital, a centre of excellence in clinical biochemistry at the time. In 1953, he was a founding member of the Association of Clinical Biochemists, one of the first organisations of its kind in the world. In 1955, he became an Honorary Lecturer and Consultant at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School.

Dr Pawan was a Chartered Chemist and fellow of many learned societies and professional institutions including the Royal College of Pathologists, the Royal Institute of Chemistry, the Institute of Biology, The Royal Society of Medicine and the Institute of Food Science and Technology.

In 1968, he was awarded the Doctor of Science (DSc) degree from the University of London for his work in the field of human and experimental metabolism. He was also a recognised teacher in medicine and nutrition at the university, a member of both the Board of Studies in Medicine, as well as the Board of Nutrition and Food Science and its Higher Degrees Sub-committee.

He achieved the rank of Senior Lecturer in Metabolism and Head of the Metabolic Division in the Department of Medicine at the Middlesex Hospital. Dr Pawan retired in 1983, but worked as an independent consultant. He died on 7th February, 2003.

 

 

 

 

  1. A substance released by the body during times of food deprivation, which breaks fat down into its component molecules
  2. Aldosterone is a hormone that governs sodium re-absorption and potassium excretion in the kidneys
  3. The study of the endocrine system, which delivers hormones throughout the body to carry messages from one organ to another
  4. The study of the function and diseases of the kidney
  5. The science dealing with the uses, preparations and effects of drugs
  6. A low carbohydrate diet involving the consumption of large quantities of protein, which relies on internal chemical processes to cause weight loss