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Geoffrey S. Dawes

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Prof. Geoffrey Sharman Dawes CBE FRS
Geoffrey Sharman Dawes
Born(1918-01-21)21 January 1918
Mackworth, Derbyshire[1]
Died6 May 1996(1996-05-06) (aged 78)
Alma materOxford University
Known forThe foremost international authority on fetal and neonatal physiology.
Scientific career
InstitutionsOxford University
Charing Cross Hospital
John Radcliffe Hospital
InfluencesJ H Burn

Geoffrey Sharman Dawes, CBE, FRS, FRCOG, FRCP, FACOG(Hon), FAAP(Hon) (21 January 1918 – 6 May 1996) was an English physiologist and was considered to be the foremost international authority on fetal and neonatal physiology.[2][3]


Dawes was born in 1918 in Mackworth which is within Derbyshire, but he was brought up in Elvaston where his father was the vicar of Elvaston and Thulston. He had four siblings who were all older than he was.[1] Dawes lived at Thurleston Hall, the vicarage for Elvaston. This hall had previously been the home of William Darwin Fox. His prep school was in the next village of Shardlow, where he studied until he started at Repton School which was still within south Derbyshire. This association with Repton continued as later he would become both a member and later chair of their governors.[2]

As World War II was beginning, he gained a place at Oxford University, eventually achieving a 1st in physiology in 1943. Suffering from asthma, he was considered exempt from conscription, and by 1943 had completed his clinical training.[3] Unable to go into the military, he joined J H Burn in the department of pharmacology, treating the sort of diseases and complaints that soldiers of the front suffered from during World War I, like gas gangrene and nerve gas exposure.[3] When the war ended, he was awarded a Rockefeller travelling fellowship, travelling to America to work at Harvard University and in Philadelphia. He returned to work in Oxford on a Foulerton Royal Society research fellowship.


Dawes became the director of the Nuffield Institute for Medical research in Oxford in 1948 only five years after obtaining his degree in medicine,[4] and where he worked for the next 37 years,[3] and setting the Institutes research focus on developmental physiology.

Following his appointment as director Dawes had to decide on an area of research that was worthy of his attention. He decided on fetal physiology as he thought at the time that study of fetuses would allow researchers to study simpler version of more complex adult physiology. This was not the case and Dawes himself became a spokesman for the importance and complexity of this stage of physiology.[5]

His initial research was conducted into the distribution and control of fetal circulation, mostly in unborn lamb fetus. He studied chemoreceptors, the biological mechanism that start the changes in birth. In particular he studied the onset of breathing, for the implications for human physiology, and changes in the pulmonary and systemic circulations.[4] Dawes was one of the first paediatricians to observe that lamb fetus had sleep cycles as well as breathing cycles In utero. Studies also included the responses to stresses such as hypoxia and hemorrhage.[4] Using this research, he was able to determine and later confirm that human fetus also slept in cycles. This led Dawes to consider the role of the central nervous control, not only in relation to sleep states, but also heart rate variability and responses to the stimulation of chemoreceptors.[3]

Using his research Dawes designed a system of measurement, used in obstetric departments around the world, as the most precise non-invasive way of assessing the well-being of the human fetus.[3]

Dawes was awarded the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 1966 for his outstanding contributions to medical science.[6] He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in March 1971.[7] [8]

Dawes was an editor of the British Journal of Pharmacology for many years. He won the James Spence Medal in 1969, that is awarded by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for outstanding contributions to the advancement or clarification of paediatric knowledge, the Virginia Apgar award of the American Academy of Paediatrics, the Osler Memorial Medal of Oxford University and many more.[3]

Dawes retired in 1985 and took up the post of director of Sunley Research Centre at Charing Cross Hospital, where he worked on both the computerisation of fetal heart rates and on molecular biology.[5] The Nuffield Institute of Medical research which he had directed became part of the Institute of Molecular Medicine, when Dawes finally retired in 1989.[9]

Upon retirement, and still fully fit with an acute mind, he was recruited as first director of the Sunley Research Centre at Charing Cross Hospital.[3] A keen entertainer with his wife Margaret with two sons and two daughters,[5] he died in Oxford in 1996.[4]


  • Fetal and Neonatal Physiology (1968)

Awards and honours

The Geoffrey Dawes lecture is given annually and organised by the Fetal and Neonatal Physiological Society.[10]


  1. ^ a b Liggins, Graham (1 January 1998). "Geoffrey Sharman Dawes, C. B. E. 21 January 1918 – 6 May 1996". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 44: 111–125. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1998.0008. JSTOR 770234.
  2. ^ a b Obituary: Professor Geoffrey Dawes, Independent, The (London), 16 May 1996 by C.W.G. Redman. Retrieved 7 September 2008
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Geoffrey Sharman Dawes". Munks Roll – Lives of the Fellows. Royal College of Physicians: Royal College of Physicians. X: 99. 20 May 1996. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Historical Perspectives – Perinatal Profiles: Geoffrey S. Dawes: A Neonatologist's Appreciation, NeoReviews Vol. 8 No. 9 2007 e365. Retrieved 7 September 2008
  5. ^ a b c "Pediatric Research". Retrieved 31 January 2017.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "List of winners". The Gairdner Foundation. Archived from the original on 30 December 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Liggins, Graham (1998). "Geoffrey Sharman Dawes, C. B. E. 21 January 1918 – 6 May 1996". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. The Royal Society. 44: 111–125. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1998.0008. ISSN 0080-4606.
  8. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 26 November 2010.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. Retrieved 7 September 2008 Archived 5 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Fetal and Neonatal Physiological Society. Retrieved 7 September 2008 Archived 22 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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Geoffrey S. Dawes
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