- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Eric George Lapthorne Bywaters

Born  1910
Died  2003

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British physician, born June 1, 1910; died April 2, 2003.

Biography of Eric George Lapthorne Bywaters

Upon his death in 2003, Eric George Lapthorne Bywaters was emeritus professor of rheumatology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, University of London.

Bywaters graduated from Middlesex Hospital Medical School in 1933. He was an assistant at the Bland Sutton Institute in 1935 and worked at the Courtauld Institute of Pathology. In 1937 he was invited to the Massachusetts General Hospital as a Rockefeller Travelling and Harvard Research Fellow. During the two years he stayed there he studied patients with systemic systemic lupus erythematosus.

In 1939 he returned to the Hammersmith Hospital, taking on the rheumatism clinic. During the bombing of London the next year, he studied the "crush syndrome" in people whose limbs had been trapped by falling masonry and who were released by the rescue services only to die later from kidney failure. In 1944 this work was transferred to a Medical Research Council unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The cause, Bywaters found, was release of the protein myoglobin into the circulation from crushed muscles. This blocked the tiny ducts in the kidneys, preventing urine and waste products from being filtered from the blood. He used animal models to show that alkaline fluids by mouth or intravenously protected the kidney and kept the patient alive until the blocked renal tubules healed. He was the first to introduce the Kolff artificial kidney in the United Kingdom.

In 1947 he took on the additional appointment of director of the Medical research Council Rheumatism Research Unit for juvenile rheumatism at the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital at Taplow. There he established a world renowned centre for rheumatic fever and later, when rheumatic fever was conquered, for children and adults with chronic forms of arthritis.

Bywaters was an ardent collector of historical books and material related to rheumatism, and for 20 years honorary Heberden librarian at the Royal College of Physicians. He was a talented portrait artist and caricaturist.

Besides Bywaters' lesion and Bywaters' syndrome, Eric Bywaters is associated with the Ansell-Bywaters-Elderking syndrome. This will be entered later. He was also the first to describe the Cheshire Cat syndrome.

  • Allan Dixon:
    Eric George Lapthorne Bywaters. Rheumatologist who discovered the cause of fatal kidney failure in victims of the Blitz.Obituary.
    British Medical Journal, June 28, 2003, 326: 1461.

  • Allan Dixon;
    Eric Bywaters 1910-2003. Obituary. Rheumatology, 2003, 42: 1025-1027.

  • Barry G. Firkin and Judith A. Whitworth:
    Dictionary of Medical Eponyms.
    The Parthenon Publishing Group. 1989. New edition in 2002.


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