science

Lionel Fry obituary


My former colleague Lionel Fry, who has died aged 87, was one of the most significant dermatologists of his generation. In addition to running a demanding NHS department at St Mary’s hospital in London, he founded and led a pioneering research unit there which came up with new ways of alleviating psoriasis.

Lionel’s work altered our understanding of the development and treatment of psoriasis, and pioneered the use of the immunosuppressant medication cyclosporin in managing severe cases.

He also found a remedy for the rare skin ailment dermatitis herpetiformis, which is linked to coeliac disease. Working with the haematologist Victor Hoffbrand, he was the first to demonstrate that dermatitis herpetiformis is a manifestation of gluten sensitivity, and showed that a gluten-free diet usually helps to clear up the condition.

Lionel was born in Croydon, south London, to Basia (nee Mincman) and delivered at home by his father, Ansel Freitag, who was a GP; both parents had emigrated from Poland in 1926, and had shortened their married name to Fry. His wider family lost many relatives in concentration camps during the second world war, and the trauma had a lasting effect on Lionel.

After Whitgift school (now Trinity school), Croydon, he studied at King’s College hospital in London, where he later worked as a house officer and registrar before being appointed as research fellow, then senior registrar, at the London hospital. He became consultant dermatologist at St Mary’s in Paddington, where I worked with him, in 1969, and then professor of dermatology in 1996, remaining in that post until his retirement in 1999, thereafter continuing in private practice and research until 2018.

Lionel wrote 15 books on dermatology, including his seminal work, Dermatology: An Illustrated Guide, which is still considered one of the best handbooks for GPs and students. He authored more than 250 papers for journals including the Lancet. Awarded the Sir Archibald Gray medal for outstanding contributions to British dermatology, he was also given the British Society for Investigative Dermatology medal for distinguished service to dermatological research.

Lionel combined the roles of academic and clinician with great success, equally admired for his research work, his lectures and his bedside manner with patients, who generally adored him. Respected by colleagues and feared by hospital managers, he was a staunch advocate for the NHS, and objected strongly to the introduction of market forces.

Lionel met his wife, Minne (nee Zidel), when they were 15, and they married in 1955. He is survived by Minne, their children, Michael, Tessa and Kathy, and grandchildren, Zack and Daisy.



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