Sir Derrick Dunlop

Elected in 2014

Born on 3 April 1902 in Edinburgh, UK
Died on 19 June 1980 in Edinburgh, UK


  • After graduation from Oxford and Edinburgh, Dunlop worked briefly in London before returning to his native Edinburgh and taking up the Christison Chair of Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology at Edinburgh University at the early age of 34, and working as a senior physician in the Royal Infirmary
  • He was described as “a quite superlative teacher” and “a gentle, thoughtful doctor – rightly beloved by his patients, to each of whom he gave with his great charm immeasurable confidence”
  • His Textbook of Medical Treatment, with Sir Stanley Davidson, went through many editions, and is still a leading international textbook in the form of Davidson’s Principles and Practice of Medicine
  • He was invited to become the first chairman of the Committee on the Safety of Drugs, which was known for many years as the Dunlop Committee. Under his leadership, the Yellow Card Scheme was introduced in 1964, after the thalidomide tragedy highlighted the urgent need for routine monitoring of medicines. It now receives about 25,000 reports of possible side effects each year
  • Following implementation of the Medicines Act in 1968, he became the first chairman of the Medicines Commission, in which capacity he served until 1971
  • He was awarded honorary degrees by Birmingham, Bradford, Edinburgh and National University of Ireland and was an honorary fellow of the American College of Physicians, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and Brasenose College, Oxford

Personal life

  • Dunlop was knighted in 1960 and was appointed physician to the Queen in Scotland in 1961
  • He concluded of his experience working with policymakers that: “if experts are occasionally wrong they are less often wrong than non-experts. Nevertheless, we interfere with the prescribing doctor’s final freedom of decision at our peril in a free democracy”

Published: 29 Sep 2014 in Pharmacology Hall of Fame