Professor Otto Herbert Wolff

James Spence Medallist

Date of death: 27 April 2010

Year James Spence Medal awarded: 1988

Otto Wolff CBE qualified from Cambridge and became Lecturer in the Department of Child Health in Birmingham. He finished as Reader under Professor Sir Douglas Hubble and was then appointed to succeed Sir Alan Moncrieff as Nuffield Professor at the Institute of Child Health in the University of London, a position he occupied for two decades.

His first paper to the BPA was on meningitis and he remained interested in childhood obesity throughout his career, beginning when there was little research on the subject. He was one of the first paediatricians in Britain to set up a clinic for obese children. He explored plasma lipids and, with Harold Salt, pioneered the techniques of lipoprotein electrophoresis.

He also explored the role of lipid disturbance in childhood as a precursor of coronary artery disease and his recognition in 1960 of the rare condition of abetalipoproteinaemia led to important work on vitamin E metabolism. He guided a lot of research after becoming Chairman of the MRC/DHSS PKU Register.

Otto was happiest dealing with patients, and understood the importance of both physical and emotional aspects of childhood problems. He recognised the need for developing specialised units in a centre such as Great Ormond Street, and was an influence and inspiration in the paediatric world. He was the President of the BPA between 1976 and 1979. He chaired many important committees, was made an honorary member of numerous foreign paediatric associations and was awarded the Dawson Williams Prize of the BMA, the Harding award by Action Research for the Crippled Child, and the medal of the Association Franqaise pour la Depistage et la Prevention des Maladies Metaboliques et des Handicaps de L'Enfant.