- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Alan Lyell

Born  1917
Died  2007

Related eponyms

Scottish dermatologist, born November 4, 1917, India; died November 2, 2007.

Biography of Alan Lyell

Alan Lyell was born in India. His mother died of puerperal fever shortly after his birth. His father, an officer in the army, arranged for others to care for him first in India then in the UK. He was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and studied medicine at St Thomas's Hospital in London during World War II.

After qualifying in 1942 he worked as a house physician to Dr. Hugh J. Wallace at the Woking War Hospital – the old Southern Railway Orphanage – he served as Regimental Medical Officer to the 11th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry, with the Allied forces in Normandy. In 1944, having been struck in the knee by "friendly fire" he was invalided out of the army

After demobilisation in he started training in dermatology in 1946. He worked for a period as temporary post-war registrar at St Thomas's, before moving to Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, as post-war registrar to Dr Claude Howard Whittle, a general physician who had taken to dermatology.

He then moved to The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to work under Professor G. H. Percival, holder of the chair of dermatology at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

His first consultant post was in Aberdeen and from 1962 in Glasgow where he became head of the Department of Dermatology at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Here he became famous for his work on the staphylococcal form of toxic epidermal necrolysis subsequently given the eponymous name of" Lyell's Disease". He was a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh from 1951, and a fellow from 1962.

Like many others in the 1970s he became disappointed and disillusioned with the changed governance of the profession and the inevitable changes in clinical care. He resigned but more recently many of the changes he had fought for came about and, frail as he was, he was able to be present at the opening of a new Dermatology Department named the Alan Lyell Centre. Sadly he was predeceased by his wife, Rachael and his son, Brian but his daughter Biddy was able to come over from America for his 90th birthday and to be by his side when he died.

We thank Dr. Leonid P. Churilov, M.D., Ph.D; and Søren Nørby, Denmark, for information submitted.


  • Daniel Turner, surgeon, physician and pioneer dermatologist.
    International Journal of Dermatology, 1982, 21 (3): 162-170.
  • Alexander Ogston (1844-1929) - Staphylococci.
    Scottish Medical Journal, 1977, 22: 277.
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (the scalded skin syndrome) a reappraisal.
    The British Journal of Dermatology, Oxford, 1979, 100: 69-86.
  • Erasmus Wilson and the Chair of Pathology at Aberdeen.
    The British Journal of Dermatology, 1979, 100: 343-346.
  • The staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome in historical perspective. Emergence of dermopathic stralna of Staphylococcus aureus and discovery of the epidermolytic toxin.
    Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, St. Louis, 1983, 9: 285-294.
  • Obituary: Dr Tadeusz Pasieczny.
    The British Journal of Dermatology, Oxford, 1977, 97: 464-465
  • John James Pringle (1855-1922).
    American Journal of dermatopathology, 1985, 7 (5): 441-445
  • Dermatology and Edinburgh.
    Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 1986, 11: 413-421.
  • Daniel Turner and the first controlled therapeutic trial.
    Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 1986, 11: 191-194.
  • John Ferguson Smith (1888-1978).
    American Journal of Dermatopathology, 1986, 8 (6): 525-528.
  • Hermann Pinkus (1905-1985). Obituary.
    The British Journal of Dermatology, 1986, 115: 507-509.
  • Memories of working with Howard Whittle 1946-1953.
    Clinical & Experimental Dermatology, Oxford, 1987, 12: 29-30.
  • Alexander Ogston and Joseph Lister. Micrococci.
    Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1989, 20 (2): 302-310.

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