Dr Peter J. Middleton

Peter was born in New Zealand in 1932 and attended medical school at the University of Otago where, during a fellowship, he explored the role of chemical carcinogens in tumor development. He trained as a pathologist and worked at the University of Otago. He subsequently spent a year at the Ruchill Institute of Virology and then returned to Otago to work in virology. 

In 1968 he was recruited to the Hos­pital for Sick Children in Toronto, where he established the Department of Virology and developed a pre-eminent diagnostic laboratory. He was appoint­ed to the University of Toronto where he lectured in clinical virology. In 1987 he was recruited to the Department of Pathology at the University of British Columbia where he worked as the head of the Virology Laboratory at the Provincial Health Laboratory and subsequently at the BC Centre for Disease Control. 

Peter will be remembered for his tireless work in promoting the discipline of clinical virology in Toronto and Vancouver. In Toronto he was a leader in introducing technology for rapid virus diagnosis, namely immuno­fluorescence microscopy and electron microscopy. His efforts were rewarded when his lab became one of the first to discover human rotaviruses and subsequently other gastrointestinal viruses, for which he gained international recognition. 

His laboratory was also a leader in the application of immunofluorecence microscopy for the detection of respiratory viruses, and electron microscopy for the detection of agents such as herpes viruses from skin lesions. It was also one of the first computerized virology laboratories in the country. 

At the Hospital for Sick Children he could be found on the wards daily checking requests for virus testing by reviewing the patients’ medical records. He also established the practice of skin lesion specimens being collected by the virologist. This assur­ed a very rapid diagnosis which was of particular benefit in the management of immunocompromised patients and the practice of infection control. 

Peter was a very effective mentor of the residents and graduate students who passed through his laboratory. He showed good acumen in assigning feasible, but important, research topics to residents during their rotations; the research generally resulted in publications. Virtually all Toronto residents in microbiology over a 20-year period passed through his laboratory and had the benefit of his teaching. 

As a laboratory director he was known for his innovative approaches and for his support of his laboratory staff. As a department head he was heavily involved with administration, including serving as chair of the Medical Advisory Committee during some of the most controversial years of the existence of the Hospital for Sick Children. He gained international rec­ognition by being elected president of the Pan-American Society for Clinical Virology.

He read voraciously and had an outstanding command of virology literature—consulting him was always a rewarding experience. He was excellent company, well traveled and well read. He died on 8 April 2012 and is survived by his wife Barbara.

Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Peter are better off for it. We have truly lost an outstanding friend and colleague.
—Richard K. Elwood, MD

Richard K. Elwood, MB, BCh, MRCP(UK), FRCPC. Dr Peter J. Middleton . BCMJ, Vol. 54, No. 6, July, August, 2012, Page(s) 290-291 - Obituaries.

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