William Frankland, Pioneering Allergist, Dies at 108

Alfred William Frankland was born in Sussex, England, on March 19, 1912, one of twin boys. His father, a vicar in the Church of England, moved the family to Britain’s Lake District, where the boys grew up surrounded by farms. Dr. Frankland discovered that he suffered from hay fever.

He attended St. Bees School in West Cumberland before studying medicine at Queen’s College, Oxford, and St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, now part of Imperial College London. After finishing his studies, he enlisted in the army three days before the outbreak of World War II, anticipating that doctors would be needed. He was sent to Singapore, where he arrived just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

By chance, he was sent to work in Singapore’s Tanglin Military Hospital rather than the newly opened Alexandra Military Hospital, which became overrun by Japanese troops who massacred the doctors, nurses and patients there — one of several times that luck kept Dr. Frankland alive. He was taken prisoner on Feb. 15, 1942, and spent the remainder of the war in Japanese prison camps, underfed and overworked, treating the other men.

Upon his return to Britain., Dr. Frankland took a post at St. Mary’s, where he worked with Sir Alexander Fleming, who won a Nobel Prize for the discovery of penicillin. In fact, the mold that had contaminated Dr. Fleming’s Petri dishes decades earlier and led to the development of modern antibiotics came from the allergy department, which was directly below Dr. Fleming’s laboratory. Dr. Frankland correctly predicted that some patients would be allergic to the new wonder drug.

Dr. Frankland had a pollen trap installed on the roof of St. Mary’s and began distributing daily pollen counts to the British news media in the early 1960s, one of the first allergists to do so. Pollen counts are now a staple of weather reports around the world.

Over his career, Dr. Frankland published more than a hundred articles and academic papers on allergies, including four that he wrote after turning 100. He accumulated many honors, including being named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2015.

Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Dr. Frankland lived the last few years of his life alone in the flat in Central London that he had shared with his wife. . He cooked his own meals and, though using a walking stick, followed a routine of daily exercises into his 100s.

Given his brushes with death, he was frequently asked what the secret of his longevity was. He would reply simply, “Luck.”


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