William ‘Bill’ Frankland has been around the block quite a few times. Most men dream of being a doctor, or a war hero, or a researcher. Bill did it all. In addition to working side by side to one of the greatest minds in humane history, Sir Alexander Fleming, Dr. Bill Frankland made some important breakthrough’s himself.
Dr. Frankland has been deemed the ‘Grandfather of Allergy’ for his pioneering work on hay fever. He’s a world renowned Immunologist and his opinion on related medical matters is sough from some of the best minds all over the world. He’s had more than 100 medical journals published, and is known all around the world, but mainly in Britain for his exceptional contribution to society.
Not long after marrying his wife, Pauline, Dr. Frankland enlisted in the Royal Army. Soon after he was stationed in Singapore just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
In addition to being “the grandfather of allergy”, and serving his country as a medic, Dr. Frankland is famously known as the man who stood tall against Saddam Hussein and demanded that he quit smoking to preserve his life. Not many people would ever dream of even looking or speaking in the direction of the infamous dictator, but Dr. Frankland did that and then some!
While he was enlisted in the army, Dr. Frankland was captured and sent to a Prisoner of war camp in Japan. The condition were extremely harsh, and many men died while in the camps. However, Dr. Frankland has always proven to be different than other men. From 1942 until being liberated in 1945, Dr. Frankland and his soldier brethren spent time in PoW camps, and were transferred to the infamous “Hell Island” at one point. They were regularly beat for “Not teaching our starving men not to steal food”.
The life of Dr. Frankland should be more known worldwide. The man who has some major accomplishments both medically and scientifically as well as the personal level of surviving a PoW camp and standing up to a bloody dictator. Dr. Frankland is an amazing man who celebrated his 105th birthday and is still regularly contributing to society daily in medicine.
Read in more detail some of the amazing things Dr. Bill Frankland has done over the last 105 years of his incredibly productive life below!
H/T Daily Mail
Bill survived a Japanese PoW camp, treated Saddam Hussein and invented the pollen count… and he’s STILL working as a doctor at 105
He worked alongside the man who was arguably the most important doctor of the 20th century, Sir Alexander Fleming. Later, he made a landmark medical discovery of his own that has benefited millions worldwide.
Along the way, he cheated death on the toss of a coin, endured the horror of Japanese PoW camps and survived — just — the attentions of a bloodsucking bug he let feast on his arm in the name of research.
Of course, like any doctor, William ‘Bill’ Frankland has had some challenging patients, too. None more so than a chap named Saddam Hussein. But he took no nonsense from the Iraqi dictator, whom he ordered to quit smoking.
Abstinence of another kind was on Dr Frankland’s mind over lunch last week. ‘No wine for me — I had too much to drink yesterday,’ he said with a smile, referring to his birthday party.
William ‘Bill’ Frankland (above in the 1950s) cheated death on the toss of a coin, endured the horror of Japanese PoW camps and survived — just — the attentions of a bloodsucking bug he let feast on his arm in the name of research
His 105th, that is, and a milestone that earned him his second birthday card from the Queen.
In any case, he needs a clear head to keep on top of his duties. For Dr Frankland MBE, the immunologist known as the ‘Grandfather of Allergy’ for his pioneering work on hayfever, is Britain’s, and possibly the world’s, oldest working doctor.
His opinion continues to be sought by colleagues around the globe, and there are speeches to be made and dinners to attend related to his various honorary titles. He needs a secretary to run his busy diary.
Dr Frankland still contributes papers to medical journals. The latest — the fourth since he became a centenarian, and one of more than 100 in his career — was published two weeks ago.
Dr Frankland MBE, the immunologist known as the ‘Grandfather of Allergy’ for his pioneering work on hayfever, is Britain’s, and possibly the world’s, oldest working doctor
It’s about a condition related to malnutrition and is splendidly titled ‘Flight Lieutenant Peach’s observations on Burning Feet Syndrome in Far Eastern Prisoners of War 1942–45’.
We meet at one of his favourite restaurants, a short stroll from his mews home and office in Marylebone, central London, and he plunges into some of the extraordinary episodes of his long life.
‘I never thought of medicine as helping humanity,’ he says of his career. ‘People say you must have wanted to help human beings, but it never came into my mind.
My sister and my twin brother, Jack, and I were in bed for four or five months aged six or seven. The GP never got the right diagnosis. He said we needed our tonsils out. In fact, it was TB. That’s when I first decided I wanted to be a doctor.’
What appealed to young William was the ‘mystery’ of illness. He was an avid reader of the detective stories of Edgar Wallace.
‘I think being a doctor is rather like being a detective — someone is sick and there’s something you have to discover that’s not obvious,’ he says.
The son of a vicar, Dr Frankland was born in Sussex on March 19, 1912, the youngest of four. The family moved to Cumberland, now part of Cumbria, where he attended St Bees boarding school in the coastal village of the same name.
He enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps and, just months after marrying his wife Pauline in 1941, was posted to Singapore, arriving seven days before the attack on Pearl Harbour and the start of the war in the Far East
He won an Exhibition (a scholarship) to study natural sciences at Queen’s College, Oxford, where he excelled at athletics, cutting a dashing Chariots Of Fire-style figure in team photographs.
His clinical studies continued at St Mary’s Hospital, London, where he qualified in 1938. He enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps and, just months after marrying his wife Pauline in 1941, was posted to Singapore, arriving seven days before the attack on Pearl Harbour and the start of the war in the Far East.
Dr Frankland and a fellow medic were invited to choose between postings at two military hospitals in Singapore: one as an anaesthetist, the other dealing with dermatology and venereal disease.
A coin was tossed. Dr Frank-land called ‘heads’, won the toss, chose the latter post and joined the staff at Tanglin.
His colleague went to the Alexandra Military Hospital — and paid for it with his life, dying in a massacre of staff and patients by Japanese soldiers on Valentine’s Day 1942.
‘So many people have asked me how I’ve lived so long,’ says Dr Frankland. ‘There are many occasions I’ve been so near death, but for some reason or another escaped.’
Following the surrender of the British Army to the Japanese in February 1942, he was sent to the notorious Changi PoW camp.
He was later transferred to a work camp on what was known as Hell Island, where he and other officers suffered regular ‘bashings’ by their captors ‘because we hadn’t trained our starving men not to steal food’.
Dr Frankland’s own definitive research moment came in 1954 when The Lancet published the findings of his landmark trial. It showed that hayfever and asthma sufferers who were given injections of the protein component of pollen before the onset of the hayfever season experienced greatly reduced symptoms subsequently. Above, with Princess Anne in 2015
One beating was so savage that Dr Frankland was knocked unconscious. ‘Afterwards, I said to my CO: “Well, that’s the best bashing I’ve had because I never felt a thing, but I know I’ve been bashed because I’ve just spat out a molar.”
‘My CO said: “We thought we’d lost you. When you got up, you staggered with your fists out and it looked as if you were going to hit a Japanese officer. A Japanese private was about to put his bayonet through your chest.” So that’s another occasion when I was lucky.’
When liberation came in 1945, he and other emaciated PoWs were flown in three Dakotas to Rangoon for a ship back to Blighty. During the flight, they hit a monsoon and one aircraft crashed into a mountain.
‘Yet more luck — I was in the right Dakota,’ Dr Frankland says drily.
He resumed his medical career in 1946 at St Mary’s as clinical assistant in the allergies department where he found himself on an ‘experimental ward’ set up by Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who, in 1928, had discovered penicillin.
‘I liked Fleming and admired him terrifically for his intelligence, but he wasn’t interested in clinical medicine, just science.
‘I was in charge of the ward and had to meet him at 10am every day for two years. Only once did we discuss a patient.
Fleming told me once how, at the end of the war, the BBC asked him to talk about his wonder drug.
‘One thing penicillin was so helpful for was gonorrhoea. Fleming wondered whether he could mention that, so he rang Winston Churchill to ask him. People were off duty for at least a week if they got “the clap”.
‘Churchill said: “Marvellous, instead of them being useless to the Forces for a week, they’re not off at all — you must use this word gonorrhoea.” ’
Dr Frankland’s own definitive research moment came in 1954 when The Lancet published the findings of his landmark trial.
To carry out a DIY test on desensitisation, he kept a specimen of Rhodnius prolixus (also known as the ‘kissing bug’ because it bites its sleeping human victims around the mouth) in a test tube in his car, and let it dine on his arm at weekly intervals
It showed that hayfever and asthma sufferers who were given injections of the protein component of pollen before the onset of the hayfever season experienced greatly reduced symptoms subsequently.
His work formed the basis of establishing the pollen count. From 1961 onwards, it was included as part of the weather forecast. The Met Office continues the practice to this day.
Dr Frankland also expounded the ‘hygiene theory’, linking the rise in the number of people with allergies to higher levels of hygiene, which means we are no longer exposed to as many micro-organisms or allergens, and so don’t build up immunity to them over time.
His scientific inquisitiveness was such that he even experimented on himself.
To investigate the concept of desensitisation — a treatment aiming to reduce the intensity of an allergic reaction by repeated exposure to the allergen — he acquired an inch-long South American insect. As a PoW, he had observed the apparent immunity of Japanese soldiers to insect bites because they were bitten so often.
To carry out his DIY test, he kept the specimen of Rhodnius prolixus (also known as the ‘kissing bug’ because it bites its sleeping human victims around the mouth) in a test tube in his car, and let it dine on his arm at weekly intervals.
Unfortunately, instead of becoming desensitised, he reacted more and more intensely.
‘For the eighth bite, I got a nice probationary nurse to take my blood pressure every five minutes.
“I don’t mind if you’re a beggar or a head of state, if you’re causing your own problems there’s no point wasting my time seeing you ”
What Dr Frankland told Saddam Hussein when they met in 1979
‘After about nine minutes of its feeding, she said the machine had broken because my blood pressure was nil. But it wasn’t broken. I could feel my face and lips swelling. I couldn’t speak or breathe.
‘The nurse ran out to get the sister, who said: “I’ll give you a shot of adrenaline.” Within 90 seconds, I’d decided I was going to live and she gave me another shot.’ A third shot was needed before he was out of the woods.
In 1979, there was another lucky escape after Dr Frankland was invited to visit a ‘VIP’ in Baghdad. It was the country’s new leader, Saddam Hussein.
They told me he had severe asthma and was allergic. I did skin tests, but they didn’t show anything. And he didn’t have asthma. What he did have was an addiction to cigarettes. More than 40 a day.
‘To my lasting regret, I told him that was his trouble and that if he carried on, in another two years he wouldn’t be head of state.
‘I said: “I don’t mind if you’re a beggar or a head of state, if you’re causing your own problems there’s no point wasting my time seeing you.”
‘Next morning at the airport, a little man came up to me and whispered: “Someone you have seen very recently has carried out the instructions you wanted.” I was later told, though I don’t know if it’s true, that Saddam shot his Minister of Health after he’d had a disagreement with him.’
Yet again, it seems, Dr Frankland got away by the skin of his teeth.
After retiring from St Mary’s, he took a non-paid consultancy role at Guy’s Hospital, where he researched peanut allergies. He continued to see patients as a private consultant into his late 90s.
‘I just don’t know what people do when they retire at 65,’ he says.
So, what does a man of his eminence and work ethic make of the NHS today? ‘Nye Bevan had a wonderful idea in 1948 when he founded something the world envied. Then — but not now. The NHS is grossly underfunded.’
Given his tremendous achievements and dedication, it was something of a scandal that Dr Frankland remained without an honour well past his 100th birthday. He received his MBE, aged 103, in 2015.
But if his work rate continues, who’s to say he won’t garner a few more before he’s done.