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Commemorative Plaques Record Details

Robin Lawrence (1892 - 1968)

Picture of the Palque

Location : 10 Ferryhill Place

Area : Aberdeen

Plaque Type : Yellow

About Robin Lawrence : Pioneering medical scientist. Soon after qualifying as a medical doctor Lawrence was diagnosed with diabetes. At the time, in the early 20th century, a disease such as this was normally fatal. Having moved to Florence to spend his remaining time there he was called back to Britain by his friend G.Harrison at King's College Hospital, London, with the message 'I have got some insulin. It works. Come back quick.' Lawrence quickly learned how to manage diabetes and became a leading specialist in the field. His books, The Diabetic Life and The Diabetic ABC both ran to numerous editions. He and his close friends are credited with creation of the Diabetic Department at King's College Hospital, of which he subsequently became head. In 1934 with the public support of his friend and patient the novelist H.G.Wells he founded the Diabetic Association, now the British Diabetic Association. He was the Chairman of its executive council from 1934 to 1961. In 1950 he was involved in founding the International Diabetic Federation, of which body he was President until 1958.

More Information : Robert, commonly known as Robin, Lawrence was born in Aberdeen on 18 November 1892. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Aberdeen University. He followed his elder brother into medical school and graduating with honours in 1916. He then joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and spent the next three years in India. Returning home in 1919, he obtained an appointment as second House Surgeon in the Casualty Department of King's College Hospital, London, later transferring to the Ear, Nose and Throat Department. It was here that he was first diagnosed with diabetes. At the time a diagnosis such as this was in effect a death sentence. People so diagnosed could get neither jobs or life insurance. He left for Florence to practise medicine amongst the ex-pat community there and to live the remainder of what he believed would be a short life in beautiful surroundings. At the time there were a number of quack cures being circulated for diabetes: he was thus initially sceptical when he heard about insulin. However at the prompting of his friend Dr Harrison he returned to King's College Hospital on 28 May 1923. After two days of testing, Harrison and Lawrence discussed the dose of insulin that should be administered to Lawrence. Neither doctor knew anything about insulin and their judgments were largely guess work. They decided that the first injection, to be given at 10am on 31 May 1923, was to be 20 units. This led to hypoglycaemia (i.e. low blood glucose levels, as opposed to too high ones associated with diabetes). By experiment Lawrence and Harrison worked out a more suitable set of dosages to be taken during the day. After being appointed Biochemist to King's College Hospital in 1923, Lawrence set up a 'diet kitchen' where patients were taught as out-patients about diabetes and how to manage it through diets and injections. He ardently believed that people with diabetes should take control of their own treatment and that this would improve their quality of life. To aid this he devised several influential diet schemes, such as the Line-Ration Diet, now called the Lawrence Weighed diet, and the Lawrence Unweighed Diabetic Diet, providing simple, accurate methods of measuring one's own diet. By 1934, Lawrence mobilised two of his notable diabetic patients, H.G. Wells, the writer and philosopher, and G.D.H. Cole, the political theorist and economist, and together they founded The Diabetic Association, made up of people with diabetes and those concerned with their care. With a growing band of members, they campaigned for better life opportunities, help with treatment costs and the general recognition that people with diabetes could live full and productive lives. In 1925 he published The Diabetic Life, which went on to a further 17 editions. Later, in 1929 he published The Diabetic ABC, which he described as a 'short practical book for patients and nurses'. He died at home in London on 27 August 1968. The Lawrence medal is still issued to patients who have managed he disease for 60 years or more. In 1976 Diabetes UK founded the R.D. Lawrence Fellowship, in recognition of Robin's life and career. The fellowship allows postdoctoral researchers a chance to develop their work in the field of diabetes research.