Taming The Beast - Memoirs of a Pioneering Cancer Physician

Taming The Beast - Memoirs of a Pioneering Cancer Physician

front cover

Author: John Fletcher Smyth (Trinity 1964)

Publisher: Maclean Dubois. (Birlinn)

This short autobiography recounts my life as a professional singer and cancer researcher. I was the inaugural Professor of Medical Oncology in Edinburgh (1979-) and have played a major part in developing cancer medicine in the UK and Europe. I reflect on the amazing changes in cancer treatment over the past 50 years from cancer being an "untamed" disease to the present day when we have managed to control (tame) so many of these disease that now affect 1 in 2 of us. I have also enjoyed making music with Sir John Eliot Gardiner amongst others for over 50 years. I hope that these reflections will encourage young cancer researchers to realise how lucky they are!


When he was appointed Edinburgh University's first professor of medical oncology at the age of 33, John Smyth was already making a name for himself in the world of cancer research. Over the next three decades, he led the development of cancer medicine in Scotland, pushing ahead both research and education in the subject. In that time, he supervised the care of some 6,000 cancer patients, published more than 330 scientific papers and contributed to more than 40 books. Along with medicine, he has had a lifelong passion for both singing and flying light aircraft. While at Cambridge University, he was a founder-member of the Monteverdi Choir - widely held to be one of the finest chamber choirs in the world - and sang in it for 50 years. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife Ann, a professor of clinical psychology. Between them, they have four daughters and ten grandchildren.

Publication date: 
Monday 1 August 2022

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