Imperial College London

Professor Neil Pride Obituary


Professor Neil Pride

Professor Neil Blair Pride MD, FRCP, FERS: born Croydon 29th July 1931, died Ealing 12th November 2016.

Neil Pride, Emeritus Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College, died on November 12th 2016 aged 85 years. He was a respiratory physician and physiologist, who made enormous contributions to our understanding of common lung diseases. He had a long association with Imperial and its medical predecessors.

Born in Croydon to a general practitioner father, he was educated at Bryanston School, Dorset. He studied preclinical medicine at Christ’s College, Cambridge University and proceeded to clinical studies at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School London, qualifying as a doctor in 1956. After clinical training posts in London (St Mary’s) and Cambridge, in 1962 he went to work with the famous respiratory physiologist Sol Permutt in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. It was here that he developed physiological research and he and Sol published a landmark paper on the determinants of maximal expiratory flow from the lung [1]. This was followed by time spent with Julius Comroe, a legendary respiratory academic, at the Cardiovascular Research Institute in San Francisco. He returned to London in 1964 to work at an MRC Unit at King’s College Hospital with Philip Hugh-Jones, beginning his long association with the MRC. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant at King’s in 1968.

Later that year he moved to the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and Hammersmith Hospital as Senior Lecturer in Medicine, where he established his international reputation as a respiratory physiologist. He subsequently became Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of the Division of Respiratory Medicine, and remained until his retirement in 1996. During his time at Hammersmith he became a guru of respiratory physiology and fostered the careers of many academics in respiratory medicine in the UK and across the world. Neil was responsible for my own entry into respiratory research, which I was very reluctant to undertake. He was an outstanding mentor and support during my time as an MRC Research Fellow at Hammersmith.  In 1996 he was elected Emeritus Professor of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College and continued his physiology research at the National Heart and Lung Institute at the Royal Brompton, working with established researchers and students.

Neil Pride made major contributions in the field of lung mechanics, unravelling the mechanisms of airway narrowing in common lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Neil was one of the first to do research in COPD, probing its underlying mechanisms and helping us to understand how treatments work. His scientific output dealt with the mechanics of every aspect of the respiratory system, from the nose to the diaphragm, including coughing.  He was an outstanding intellect, who knew respiratory physiology better than anyone, as well as a skilled physician much in demand by his clinical colleagues. But he was also knowledgeable about many other areas outside his own research field. He was extraordinarily well-read and had an amazing memory, never seeming to forget anything that he had heard.

He was also a very gifted teacher, who was able to simplify and communicate complex ideas in lung physiology. He was a doctor much loved by his patients. For all his brilliance, he was modest and generous, and an inspiring mentor to young researchers. His writing was as clear as his talks and he published many very influential papers, reviews, chapters and books. He co-edited the first large textbook on COPD, now in its second edition and wrote a book on Lung Function with his long-term colleague Professor Mike Hughes. His last paper written with Ann Watson on the history of COPD was published this year [2].

He received many honours, including an honorary degree from Athens University in 1997, the British Thoracic Society (BTS) Medal in 2002 and the European Respiratory Society Presidential award in 2003. He was President of the BTS 1992-1993. He was elected to the Fellowship of the ERS (FERS) this year, but unfortunately was too ill to attend the ERS International Congress to receive it. 

Neil Pride was one of the most influential thinkers in academic respiratory medicine in our lifetime and was widely admired internationally for his insights and thoughtful contributions. He helped many people in their careers and was a continued source of inspiration to those who had the great fortune to work with him. He will be greatly missed by all his friends and colleagues within NHLI and by the international respiratory community. 

He is survived by his wife Roma, his daughters, Fiona and Catherine, and 2 grandchildren.


1. Pride NB, Permutt S, Riley RL, Bromberger-Barnea B. Determinants of maximal expiratory flow from the lungs. J Appl Physiol 1967: 23: 646-662.

2. Watson RA, Pride NB. Early history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 1808-1980. COPD 2016: 13: 262-273.


Professor Sir Peter Barnes, FRS, FMedSci

Professor Sir Peter Barnes, FRS, FMedSci
National Heart & Lung Institute

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