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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 01:12 GMT
Knighthood after 50 years

Mr Harold Ridley Mr Harold Ridley is a pioneer in eye surgery

A surgeon has been made a knight 50 years after his pioneering work helped perfect a technique that has saved the sight of millions.

Mr Harold Ridley is among four knights and three dames created in the world of medicine in the New Year's Honours list.

The knights include Professor David Lane, who jointly discovered a gene blamed for several forms of cancer.

Mr Ridley developed artificial lenses for the treatment of patients with cataracts in the 1940s. His work was aided by observing the effect of injuries suffered by fighter pilots during the Second World War.

He performed the first operation to insert an artificial lens at St Thomas's Hospital, London, on 29 November 1949.

The greater reward and satisfaction is knowing so many people have been helped to lead a better life
Sir Harold Ridley
Many in the medical establishment were not convinced by his techniques, but lens implantation is now standard practice, and gives wide, clearer vision.

Mr Ridley told BBC News Online he was greatly honoured by his knighthood.

But he said: "The greater reward and satisfaction is knowing so many people have been helped to lead a better life.

"I knew I had something good, and was determined to do it, but many people were not in favour: they thought I was taking an unnecessary risk and that cataract patients had quite enough problems already."

Mr Ridley was honoured at a celebratory dinner in November.

Cancer gene breakthrough

Professor David Lane (source: Dundee University)
Professor David Lane, who is based at Dundee University, is still working on the p53 gene, which is thought to be key to the development of certain cancers.

He is joining forces with an expert in keyhole surgery to develop ways of treating tumours with gene therapy.

He has been critical of the way that research has been funded in the UK, and has said that if it was not for his family, he would consider emigrating to the United States.

He told BBC News Online: "As we cross the threshold of this new millennium, it is now not over-optimistic to think and hope that cancers will at last yield their secrets and begin to fall one by one."

Professor Michael Marmot, an expert in epidemiology at University College London, has been knighted for his work into understanding health inequalities.

Professor Marmot is carrying out long-term research for the Department of Health into illness in the workplace, and in particular the differences beteween people at different grades.

He has also studied the impact of diet on coronary heart disease.

Another knighted in these honours is Prof George Alberti, the president of the Royal College of Physicians.

He is well-known in the international medical community for his work in the field of diabetes, tackling both the disease and its complications.

Three dames

Dr Beulah Bewley has been made a dame in recognition of her leading role in promoting equal oportunities for women in medicine during 20 years as a representative of the Medical Women's Federation on the General Medical Council (GMC).

Dr Bewley, a retired academic who worked at several London teaching hospitals, believes there is considerably less discrimination against women entering medicine than when she was first elected to the GMC.

She said: "There certainly was discrimination. They used to look at you and say she is married, or she has got children and if you were not married, they were expecting you to get married."

Two other medical women have been made dames. They are Professor Jill Clark, for services to nursing education and Lorna Muirhead, president of the Royal College of Midwives.

Dr Richard Smith, the editor of one of the world's most respected medical publications, the British Medical Journal has been awarded a CBE.

Dr Smith said: "We have campaigned for years on issues like smoking, alcohol abuse, poverty and unemployment, regulation of the profession, the quality of health care, global health, and prison health care.
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