2nd Jan 1921 - 7th Feb 2003
ALDOSTERONE: a hormone which regulates chemical processes in the kidneys to retain sodium and water in the body
ATKINS DIET: a low carbohydrate diet involving the consumption of large quantities of protein to cause weight loss
FAT MOBILISING SUBSTANCE (FMS): a substance, which, when released in the body, breaks down far during times of food deprivation or starvation
HORMONE: a chemical substance secreted by the body which acts on a particular organ or type of cell
METABOLISM: the breakdown of complex organic molecules which provides the energy and nutrients needed to sustain life
PHYSIOLOGY: a branch of biology that deals with the study of the physical and biochemical functions and processes of plant and animal life
While returning home from England during World War II, Pawan’s ship was attacked in the Atlantic Ocean and he was one of only three from the crew of 80 to survive.
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 2
An expert on nutrition and metabolism and an outstanding educator, Dr Gaston Pawan was the first to show the biological activity of the hormone aldosterone and study the metabolic response of a patient treated with aldosterone in 1954. He was also the first to isolate the Fat Mobilising Substance (FMS) and to show its activity in humans. He studied the first obese human subjects to receive a course of treatment with FMS in 1968. This work was used by Dr Robert Atkins to develop the popular but controversial Atkins Diet.
Gaston Lennox Pawan was born on 2nd January 1921 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. The only son of Dr Joseph Lennox Pawan, he was educated at St. Mary’s College. He excelled academically and was inspired by his science teacher, Father Leonard Graf. A well-rounded student, he was involved 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 saw active war service in the Atlantic convoys. After his ship was torpedoed, he was taken to Liverpool, England, where he pursued higher education. He joined Middlesex Hospital, London in 1948, working as a research assistant while studying part-time at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School and the University of Cambridge. He obtained his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBChir) in 1949, and his Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Chemistry, Physiology and Anatomy from the University of London in 1951. His research focused on the investigation of patients with metabolic and nutritional disorders.
In the early 1950s, Pawan became involved in the emerging National Health Service (NHS). For him, this was a time of opportunity, enthusiasm and team building. He was appointed Lecturer and Research Biochemist in the Middlesex Department of Medicine in 1951. The Middlesex Hospital was a centre of excellence in clinical biochemistry and he became a founding member of the Association of Clinical Biochemists in 1953. In 1955, he obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Special Physiology, and in 1957, was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Medicine for his thesis Metabolic Studies in Obesity.
Dr Pawan’s research explored many aspects of nutrition and metabolism. He has published widely in medical and scientific journals and lectured worldwide. His work is widely used by researchers in the field.
In 1968, he was awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) from the University of London for his work in the field of human and experimental metabolism. At the university, he was recognised for his teaching in medicine and nutrition. A Chartered Chemist, he was also a fellow of many learned societies and professional institutions.
Dr Gaston Lennox Pawan retired in 1983 but continued to work as an independent consultant until his death on 7th February 2003.