Professor John Clifton FInstP FIPEM

IT is with great sadness that we have to report the passing of Professor John Clifton, an IPEM Fellow who made an outstanding contribution to medical physics.

Professor John Clifton

Born in 1930 and with a career spanning almost 70 years, he was at the forefront of the development and advancement of physics applied to medicine in the UK. 

He graduated from the University of Southampton in 1955 and started a career in medical radiation physics at the Royal South Hants Hospital.

Two years later he joined the medical physics department of University College Hospital Medical School (UCHMS) and was subsequently appointed Head of Department in 1962. Over the course of the mid-20th century, medical physicists pushed the boundaries of physics and new technologies, applying these innovations directly to medical practice. They developed and disseminated new forms of diagnosis and treatment, laying the groundwork for the sophisticated scientific medicine used today.

Joel Professor of Physics

In 1981, UCHMS became part of University College London (UCL) and John was appointed Professor of Medical Physics. Seven years later, the Middlesex Hospital Medical School merged with UCL, resulting in creation of the academic department, UCL Medical Physics, led by John. In 1990 he was appointed the fourth Joel Professor of Physics Applied to Medicine at the University of London.

IPEM member Professor Alan Cottenden MBE, Emeritus Professor of Incontinence Technology, said: ‘He was Head of Department when I joined UCL in 1984 and was very welcoming and supportive as I found my feet. He was a good and encouraging listener. Following our discussions, I often discovered that - without mentioning it to me - he had quietly done or said something somewhere that would smooth the way. A lovely man.’

EFOMP President

Professor Clifton was President of the Hospital Physicists’ Association (HPA) from 1976-1978 and was a founding member and the first President of the European Federation of Organisations for Medical Physics (EFOMP) from 1980-1983. He was also Honorary Editor of IPEM’s international peer-reviewed journal Physics in Medicine and Biology from 1979 to 1983.

He retired from UCL in 1992, becoming an Emeritus Professor of Physics as applied to Medicine.

The current Head of UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering and IPEM Fellow Professor Andrew Nisbet, said: ‘Professor Clifton was not only instrumental in the development of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at UCL and UCLH but his contributions to the field on a national and international scale are significant and it is very fitting that we have a student award named in his honour.’

The John Clifton Prize was initiated in 2011 in his honour and is awarded by UCL to the most outstanding performance from a non-final year undergraduate student.

Dr Robert Farley, IPEM’s President, said: ‘Our condolences go to John’s family and friends and he leaves behind him a significant legacy.’