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Obituary: David Bowsher MA MD ScD PhD FRCP Ed FRC Path
  1. John W Thompson
  1. Correspondence to John W Thompson, BMAS, Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, 60 Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3HR; bmaslondon{at}

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It is with very great sadness that the Society learnt of David Bowsher's death on 17 June 2011 at the age of 86. David, an honorary member of the Society (he was also a member of both the research committee and the international editorial board), made many important contributions to the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) by way of presenting talks, publishing papers and chapters on acupuncture, as well as on forms of stimulation-induced analgesia. He willingly and generously gave valuable advice, help, guidance, encouragement and inspiration to members and others. Those who were fortunate enough to hear him present a lecture or to have a discussion with him, quickly realised that he was someone with a multitude of exceptional gifts. He was a consultant neurologist, neuroanatomist and medical scientist who possessed that rare combination of a most erudite mind with an ability to present a highly complex subject in a simple and readily understandable way. But much more than this, he had a dynamic and witty style that made the subject of each talk fascinating and attractive. Every presentation was interlaced with humour and an infectious laugh that demonstrated how he delighted in both the fun and serious sides of science. He used a form of satire that helped to reinforce the particular message that he was bringing to his audience. He was also a linguist and loved music and literature.

David Richard Bowsher was born in Wiltshire on 23 February 1925. After attending preparatory school, he went to Haileybury College in Hertfordshire from where he obtained a scholarship to study medicine at Cambridge which he completed at University College Hospital London in 1950. By this stage he must have developed an intense interest in the study of the nervous system because he was appointed lecturer (and later reader) in the department of anatomy at Liverpool where he started on a lifelong career of teaching basic and applied neurology to undergraduates and postgraduates. In 1967, in response to his students, he wrote Introduction to the Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System that quickly became a classic and went into five editions plus another four in foreign languages. After requests for a short book in the field of applied neuroanatomy, he wrote Mechanisms of Nervous Disorder: An Introduction (1978).

One of David's strongest abilities was to conceive, lead, undertake and publish research both in the UK and abroad. In 1979 the Pain Relief Foundation was set up in Liverpool of which David was one of the three co-founders, and David became the Director of Research, a post he held to great effect until 2000. It is reported by the International Association for the Study of Pain that he published over 300 papers and innumerable chapters. He also gave many invited lectures, including those to BMAS and to the British Pain Society (of which he was also an honorary member). His special interest in neuro-anatomical mechanisms led David to tease out the differences between the actions of acupuncture and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which he described and illustrated in detail in his paper entitled ‘The physiology of stimulation-produced analgesia’ published in Acupuncture in Medicine (1991;9:58–62). More recently (1998) he contributed a valuable chapter on ‘Mechanisms of Acupuncture’ to the bible of BMAS—namely, Medical Acupuncture: A Western Scientific Approach (1998). Acupuncturists, especially those with an interest in its mechanisms, are well rewarded by reading these texts.

David will be sadly missed; his influence and important contributions to medical science will never be forgotten.

He leaves Doreen (his second wife), a son Julian and family, to all of whom the Society sends deepest sympathy.

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