Obituary: Professor Sir Andrew Kay, MB ChB, FRCS, surgeon and Regius Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University, 1964-81

Professor Sir Andrew Watt Kay, MB ChB, FRCS, surgeon and Regius Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University, 1964-81. Born: 14 August, 1914, in Newton-On-Ayr. Died: 1 February, 2011, in Paisley, aged 94.

Sir Andrew Kay brought to clinical surgery a brilliant analytical mind and a keen insight into medical research and development. His speciality was in the field of gastroenterology and the learned papers he wrote on the subject gained both him and Glasgow University a deserved international reputation. Sir Andrew was an eminent graduate of the university and served as its professor of surgery and, from 1956, as consultant surgeon at the Glasgow Western Infirmary.

Andrew Watt Kay was the son of pharmacists in Ayr and educated at Ayr Academy passing out dux of the school before going to read medicine at Glasgow. In 1939, he graduated with honours as a Bachelor of Surgery and won the prestigious Brunton Memorial Prize. He trained as a house surgeon at Glasgow's Western Infirmary under AJ Hutton and after qualifying in 1942 was awarded the medical faculty's highest award, the Bellahouston Gold Medal. In 1946, Sir Andrew undertook national service with the Royal Army Medical Corps and served mostly at its surgical division at the Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital, London. He was demobbed with rank of major.

Sir Andrew returned to the Western in Glasgow where he carried out research into gastric problems leading to the development of tests into the diagnosis and management of duodenal ulcers. With the advent of antihistamines in the early 1950s, he spotted their potential use with histamine for stimulating and measuring acid secretions in the stomach. The discovery saved much unnecessary surgery for countless patients and was acclaimed throughout the medical profession.

For two years from 1956 he was consultant surgeon at the Western before accepting the chair of surgery at the University of Sheffield. He returned to Glasgow, in 1964, to become Regius Professor of Surgery. Sir Andrew also worked with Professor Richard Wood, a kidney specialist, in setting up one of the first clinical kidney transplant programmes in the UK

His subsequent role as Chief Scientist at the Scottish Home and Health Department came about as a result of the conclusions in the Rothschild Report of 1972. Sir Andrew's brief was to support government-funded projects, to advise on research projects and to further the study in the medical and social sciences. With his wide knowledge of academic research throughout Scotland - and of those involved in the projects - Sir Andrew proved an inspired appointment.

Sir Andrew sat on many influential medical committees. They included the Medical Research Council and the Royal Commission on Medical Education, where he played a leading role in modernising the undergraduate curriculum.From 1972-1974, he was President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and an outstanding chairman of the Scottish Hospitals Endowment Research Trust.

He held honorary degrees from several universities (including Edinburgh, Sheffield and Nebraska) and was acclaimed by many medical colleges for his informed lectures. He published widely in medical journals and wrote Research in Medicine (1977). He was knighted in 1973.

Sir Andrew uncharacteristically assumed a certain almost pop star status in 1990 when a chart was compiled to find the 50 most influential papers published in the British Medical Journal since 1945. In the No. 1 position, with 820 citations, was Sir Andrew's 1953 Effect of large doses of histamine on gastric secretion of HCl. When asked how he felt about such fame, then aged 73, Sir Andrew modestly replied: "It's a great surprise to me and I am delighted. It is quite pleasing when you have been retired for nine years like I have suddenly to have an accolade appear out of the blue like this.''

Sir Andrew's career brought him much recognition throughout the profession. He remained modest about his considerable achievements and was always keen to encourage, and devote time, to students. Many former colleagues recall the pleasure he drew from practising medicine. The medical profession in Scotland, they declare, much benefited from his scholarship, knowledge and edifying commitment.

After his retirement in 1981, Sir Andrew tended with renewed energy his garden and conservatory in Milngavie. He also retained a keen interest in football - he had played for Glasgow University FC as a student and occasionally for Third Lanark. On his knighthood, Glasgow University FC proudly noted in their minutes that "a former player" had been so honoured. Sir Andrew was also a keen supporter of Rangers Football Club.

Sir Andrew first married Janetta Roxburgh in 1943. She died in 1990, and, in 1992, he married Phyllis Gilles who survives him: as do four children from his first marriage and four stepchildren.