After a short illness, Anne Ferguson died on December 21. It is a devastating loss to her family and to her many friends throughout the world.
Anne was brought up in Glasgow and attended Notre Dame School. A brilliant student, she gained a first-class honours degree in physiology and then an MB, ChB with honours at Glasgow University. She was awarded the Brunton Medal as the outstanding medical graduate of her year. After her clinical training at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, she was appointed lecturer in the new Department of Bacteriology and Immunology at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow in 1969, where she did a PhD with Delphine Parrot. She was appointed senior lecturer in gastroenterology at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh in 1975 and received a personal chair in gastroenterology from the University of Edinburgh in 1987. She was head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh from 1991 to 1994. She was a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. At a national level she served on the Committee on Safety of Medicines, The MRC Gene Therapy Advisory Board, and the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory committee. She was the current President of the Society for Mucosal Immunology.
She published over 300 papers and review articles in top-ranking journals and was much in demand to give lectures or chair sessions at international meetings. With Roddy McSween in 1976, she edited one of the first books on mucosal immunology, Immunological Aspects of the Liver and Gastrointestinal Tract. Among her many scientific achievements, she was the first to propose in the mid-1970s that celiac disease was due to a lamina propria T cell response to gluten. In 1975 she published a landmark paper in the Lancet in which she demonstrated that biopsies from celiac patients but not controls produced a macrophage migration inhibitory factor when challenged in organ culture with gliadin. She also had the prescience to suggest that Crohn's disease might also involve inappropriate gut T cell activation, again formally shown by many groups in the 1990s. She did landmark work on oral tolerance in the late 1970s and 1980s. More recently, she moved away from animal experiments into more clinical studies and felt strongly that the difficulty of doing this kind of work was more than compensated by the fact that it was in patients with real diseases.
Anne was a member of many professional societies but, unusual for an adult gastroenterologist, was a longstanding member of ESPGHAN. She published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition and refereed a number of papers for the journal.
Her empathy with patients, both adults and children, was very strong. She was a superb clinician. There was a very moving oration at her funeral from a patient with Crohn's disease who had been under her care for many years. Anne's greatest legacy, however, is the large number of students and clinical fellows she trained over the years. She trained scientists, pediatricians, and gastroenterologists, imbuing them all with the importance of the gut immune system. Scrupulously honest and without an ax to grind, she taught all her students proper scientific method, rigor and discipline. The spirit and enthusiasm for the subject she kindled in her students has been passed on to another generation through their own students.
Anne married John Ferguson in 1966 and they adopted two children, Kathleen and Douglas. She nursed John in the 1980s, when he developed cancer, until he died in 1989. Anne's last few years were among the happiest of her life when she met, and married in 1995, Professor Gerald Collee, Emeritus Professor of Medical Microbiology at Edinburgh University.
Anne Ferguson was an exceptional woman, and she will be sorely missed by many.
Thomas T. MacDonald
St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London