Professor Merton Sandler, one of the pioneers of modern Neuropharmacology, died on 24 August 2014 at the age of 88.
He was born and educated in Manchester, and qualified in medicine from the University there in 1949. After serving in the Army and at the Royal Free Hospital as a junior pathologist, he was appointed first as Consultant Chemical Pathologist at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, and from 1973 until 1991 he was Professor of Chemical Pathology at the University of London’s Royal Postgraduate Medical School Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology based there, remaining even beyond his retirement in 1991. He was an international authority on monoamines and their metabolism, and in 1959 he and Michael Pare were the first to suggest that depression might result from low levels of monoamines in the brain. Throughout his time at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital he led a 20-strong team of laboratory and clinical researchers. Over many years he did very influential work on post-natal depression, alcoholism, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease as well as on headache and migraine. He seemed to know everyone, and at one point arranged for the retired Chief Rabbi to speak (absolutely brilliantly!) at a West London medical meeting.
Professor Sandler served on a very large number of influential committees and other boards, and he was Chairman of the Migraine Trust’s Scientific Committee from 1985 -1992. In this role he did more than anyone to enhance the scientific status of headache research (and by extension the standard of clinical care) in Britain, for which he was recognised all over the world. During his chairmanship he personally organised discussion meetings at Leeds Castle and later in Malaga at which ideas were freely exchanged, even between pharmacologists working for rival drug companies.
He was a master at encouraging all the members of his team, and particularly those less talented than he was. Many distinguished biological psychiatrists, biochemists and neurologists owe their career development to his kindly support, always given with an incomparable wit and charm.
Richard Peatfield Charing Cross Hospital.