Prof. Hugh Simpson

1931 - 2020

Pathologist, explorer and mountaineer. Simpson was born in Ceres (Fife), into a medical family which had included Sir James Young Simpson (1811-70), although his father had been the parish minister. He was educated at Bryanston School in Dorset and went on to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He was an enthusiastic mountaineer, and on graduation in 1955 he was able to work in the Antarctic where, in addition to his medical role, he undertook research on the effects of low temperatures on stress, a well as exploring and mapping the area. He met his wife, Myrtle Emslie (b. 1930), on the Edinburgh Andean Expedition in 1958.

He climbed in Scotland and the Alps, while as a couple they were involved in expeditions to Spitsbergen (they took their four-month old son), Greenland, an attempt on the North Pole (they set the record for the farthest North reached by any unsupported expedition), Canada and the rainforests of Suriname. Simpson would carry out medical research, while his wife wrote of their journeys.

Professionally, Simpson was Head of Pathology at Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Professor of Pathology at the University of Glasgow. He was a respected teacher and authored 164 academic papers, becoming a pioneer in the study of breast cancer. He invented the 'chronobra' which was able to measure temperatures deep within the breast as a means of early cancer detection. He served on the US President's Cancer Panel, promoted by first-lady Hillary Clinton.

Simpson was a recipient of the Polar Medal (1963) and the Mungo Park Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (1969). In retirement, the Simpsons made their home at Farletter on Speyside and he died in Newtonmore. The Simpson Nunatak, towards the end of the Antarctic Peninsula, is named after him.

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