published 06/08/2013 at 06:39 BST
Dr John Weaver, who has died aged 89, served in the Far East during the war and later became an eminent physician in Northern Ireland, leading the development of diabetes care.
He was born at Killyleagh, Co Down, on December 20 1923, to Emily, a bank official, and William Weaver, a farmer. Immediately on leaving Bangor Grammar School in 1942, John Weaver joined the Army
and, after training with a tank regiment in Catterick, was posted to India and selected for officer training. Though the Empire was under dire threat from the Japanese, his first lesson at cadet
college was learning the proper etiquette when presenting his card.
Commissioned into the 5th Royal Gurkha regiment, Weaver volunteered for parachute service and in all made 27 jumps into the jungle. At the attack on Imphal his earlier experience driving tanks landed him the job of transport officer, and he ended the war in the rank of Major.
On return to Belfast he studied Medicine at Queen’s University, graduating in 1950. He took up a Medical Research Council Fellowship to study endocrinology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. While there he also attended Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee, a former Manhattan Project site which postwar was concerned with the peaceful application of nuclear technology. Weaver became proficient in the use of radioactive iodine for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders, and led the way in setting up these services in Belfast on his return.
Appointed a consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast in 1959, he worked in the Sir George Clark Metabolic Unit which had been opened the previous year by Dr Charles Best, one of the discoverers of insulin. The unit was at that time unique in managing diabetes and a spectrum of endocrine disorders by combining specialist outpatient and inpatient facilities in the same building – an important development that allowed immediate access to nursing, laboratory and medical diabetes expertise at all times, and which is now the norm in diabetes centres.
Weaver’s clinical researches, with David Hadden, included early studies of heart attacks in type 2 diabetes patients, which led to the observational Belfast Diet Study – a precursor of the UK Prospective Diabetes Study, which itself has become one of the most quoted randomised clinical trials in diabetes care. Belfast and Oxford were at that time the only major centres with a serious research interest in type 2 as opposed to type 1 diabetes, and the Belfast study revealed that strict attention to diet could for a time control type 2 diabetes.
In 1960 Weaver became a founder member of the Corrigan Club, established “for the promotion of friendship among consultant physicians in Ireland”, with members from the main teaching hospitals in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It continued to meet annually throughout the Troubles at alternate venues in North and South. A Senator at Queen’s University, Weaver himself was an active presence behind the scenes in the search for a solution to the unrest. He became the Corrigan Club’s chairman and was also President of the Ulster Medical Society. In 1988 he served as president of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland.
Throughout his life Weaver maintained an abiding interest and affection for the Gurkhas, as well as the Army units posted to Northern Ireland. His own military service had consequences for his peacetime career, however, as, reluctant to fly following his wartime parachute jumps, he was forced to make several epic railway journeys to present his research at medical meetings in Europe.
John Weaver was appointed OBE and Deputy Lieutenant for County Down.
He is survived by his wife, Iris, and two sons, both of whom are doctors.
Dr John Weaver, born December 20 1923, died June 16 2013