Dr Winifred Gray on the passing of Dr Arthur Spriggs
Dr Arthur Spriggs died peacefully in his sleep on the night of December 12th. He was 96 years old.
As a medical graduate in the Second World War, he first worked in one of the army hospitals and was involved in the care of the wounded in the D Day landings. He was subsequently stationed in Berlin in the aftermath of the war where his knowledge of German played an important part in his ability to establish rapport with patients and staff. On his return to Britain he chose to train as a haematologist, an experience that provided an excellent entree into cytopathology when he took up the post of Consultant in charge of the Cytology laboratory at the Churchill Hospital in the early 1950s.
Although Dr Spriggs concentrated mainly on non-gynaecological cytodiagnosis, with a particular interest in the cytology of serous effusions and mesothelioma, he was also responsible for running the cervical screening programme for Oxfordshire with the help of well-trained technical staff. His laboratory attracted pathologists and scientists from other laboratories whom he encouraged in a wide range of research projects, including chromosomal analysis on cancer cells, immunomarker studies, pattern recognition training and, in the sixties, early attempts at automated screening of cervical smears – this, in the days before computerised methods were available, did not succeed! His warm enthusiasm for routine laboratory work as well for research ensured that all the laboratory staff felt engaged in these activities and the atmosphere throughout reflected his generous personality and his kindly sense of humour.
A founder member in the 1960s and later President of the British Society for Clinical Cytology, he also played a leading role in the International Academy of Cytology and in many of the national cytology societies developing during his working lifetime. His many publications included the 1957 textbook “The Cytology of Serous Effusions”, the first edition of which was illustrated with meticulous paintings of the cells by his wife Gerry – an echo of the BSCC by-line “for the science and art of cytology”. His interest in this field culminated in the Atlas of Serous Effusion Cytopathology in the 1980s.
After retiring in 1985, he was able to devote time to his many varied interests, which included his participation in a wide survey to identify and record molluscs in the Oxford area, caring for his lovely garden and its adjacent nature reserve, collecting Delft china and Belgian lace, and, from time to time, writing limericks, a very special talent.
Dr Spriggs will be remembered throughout the pathology community with great admiration for his intelligence, wisdom and diagnostic skill, and with the warmest affection by all who had the good fortune to work with him at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.