Dr John F Nunn MD DSc PhD FRCS FRCA in interview with Lady Wendy Ball


At the start of the interview Dr Nunn, pioneer of respiratory physiology relating to anaesthesia, talks about his family background, his schooldays at Wrekin College and his time as a medical student at Birmingham University. He discusses his three years in Penang, Malaysia with the Colonial Medical Service 1949-1952 where he acquired practical experience of giving anaesthetics. The interview then moves on to Dr Nunn's early career as an anaesthetist, a series of junior posts in Birmingham. There he developed a yearning for research and started a PhD in Birmingham in the field of lung function in anaesthetic and intensive care conditions, moving on to the Royal College of Surgeons as a research fellow where he stayed for seven years. Next the discussion covers the effects of advances in respiratory physiology in the late fifties and early sixties, which undoubtedly aided the dramatic reduction in anaesthetic mortality at that time. Following that, Dr Nunn reflects on his appointments as the first Professor of Anaesthesia in Leeds, as founder of the NHS department of anaesthetics at the MRC Clinical Research Centre at Northwick Park, and as dean of the Faculty of Anaesthetists from 1980 to 1983. He talks about his major research: into anaesthetic provision at high altitudes, high pressure and anaesthesia, the effects of nitrous oxide on cell division and, shortly before his retirement, the control of the airway using a laryngeal mask. His influence on anaesthetist education - setting up a postgraduate course in Leeds, developing the fellowship course at the Faculty of Anaesthetists and mechanisms for examining the quality of the teaching in hospitals - is discussed. He then laments the closure of Northwick Park. The interview ends with Dr Nunn's post-retirement research in Egyptology, and the publication of his book on Ancient Egyptian medicine.

Other description

Birmingham University; Colonial Medical Service, Malaysia; anaesthesia in Birmingham; Royal College of Surgeons; respiratory physiology; University of Leeds; MRC Clinical Research Centre, Northwick Park; high pressure and anaesthesia; nitrous oxide; laryngeal masks; anaesthetist education; Egyptology.


Anaesthesia, Physiology, Pulmonary medicine (respiratory medicine), Research,

Project reference numbers

vid-153, MSVA_177

DOI (Digital Object Identifier)

Permanent link to this resource:


Attached files


Nunn, John
Ball, Wendy

Oxford Brookes departments

Learning Resources


Original artefact: 1998
RADAR resource: 2017


Oxford, UK

© Oxford Brookes University; The Royal College of Physicians; The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland; The Royal College of Anaesthetists
Published by Oxford Brookes University
All rights reserved.

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