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‘Fungal Threats: Good and Bad’ – a final paper by Dr Bill Frankland

16 June 2020

We are honoured to be able to share the final paper written by Old Member and Honorary Fellow Dr A W ‘Bill’ Frankland MBE, DM, FRCP: ‘Fungal Threats: Good and Bad’. Bill described himself in it as ‘Looking back on a career in medical science spanning almost 90 years’ and said of the paper: ‘This personal reflection attempts to identify the importance of fungi in both human and animal health, and in doing so tries to assess if they are good or bad…. or perhaps a mixture of both?’

Bill was a truly exceptional man whose long career in medicine helped transform our understanding of allergies. He joined Queen’s in 1930 to read Physiological Sciences. A pioneer in his field, he went on to popularise the pollen count to help clinicians and patients understand what triggers their seasonal allergies. He sadly died on 1 April 2020 at the age of 108, and his most recent previous academic paper was published in 2019.

We are grateful to Alison Madden for writing the following tribute:

'It is my great privilege to have enjoyed Bill’s friendship over the past 10 years. I first met him in the Upper Library before an Old Members' dinner in 2010, in itself special as he told me with pride that The Queen’s College Library was referenced as having Sir John Floyer’s treatise on asthma (a first description of the condition I believe), slightly rueing the change in ascription to OU following its later digitisation!

'Then 98, he still went to Singapore every February to take part in ceremonies commemorating the Fall, meeting both Allied and Japanese contemporaries. He held no grudges though talked about his narrow escape from death. He also told me that when starving, 95% of one’s thoughts focused on finding something/ anything to eat – an oblique acknowledgement of the extreme conditions he had lived through. After turning 100, he decided that it was perhaps too much to continue to make the journey.

'In 2015 I proposed him as a guest for Desert Island Discs. Initially diffident, he typically rose to and enjoyed the experience. His choice of the Boar’s Head Carol by the Queen's College Choir was its broadcast premiere, in advance of the release of the CD of carols later that year.

'I took Barbara Savage, Harmsworth Professor 2018-19, to meet Bill as she was continuing her research on Merze Tate, the first African-American woman to attend Oxford University in the early 1930s. Bill was in Oxford during the same period, so was able to give her a flavour of the city in those days.

'At the launch of Bill’s biography in December 2012, I went with a case of College beer labelled Frankland Ale. Queen’s was the last college to stop brewing in 1939, so Bill would have been the last person living to have tasted it – though he admitted that as a student he didn’t care for it! His matriculation photograph formed the basis of the label (pictured).'

Bill finished his final paper on 7 March this year, with assistance from his biographer Paul Watkins (author of From Hell Island To Hay Fever: The Life of Dr Bill Frankland) in putting it together. He gives a fascinating and wide-ranging account of fungi, drawing on biblical references and discussing the discovery of penicillin, the development of Quorn, and various fungal diseases.

Download the paper: ‘Fungal Threats: Good and Bad’.

(Photo below: Bill receiving his MBE in 2015)