Colin Wallace Maitland Adams was the son of Sidney Ewart Adams, an architect and property owner. He was born at Westcliff and educated at Oundle and Christ’s College, Cambridge, graduating in medicine at the London Hospital in 1952. After a couple of house posts, he was appointed to a research fellowship in pathology, 1955-58, and like many others of his generation he came under the influence of Dorothy Russell [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.510]. He began his research career working on the endocrine system, publishing papers on the identification of cell types in the pituitary gland using histochemical methods.
He moved on to the pathology department at Guy’s Hospital medical school in 1958 as a lecturer and was appointed reader in 1963. At Guy’s he established a laboratory devoted to the study of the histochemistry of lipids in the blood vessels and the brain, and was a pioneer of histochemistry techniques. He was also engaged in a series of investigations on the pathogenesis of atheroma, studying the way in which cholesterol and other blood components diffused into and accumulated in the arterial wall causing tissue damage. He published an influential book on vascular histochemistry and was for many years the editor of the journal Atherosclerosis and a council member of the International Atherosclerosis Society. Maitland made significant contributions to neuropathology, devising methods for identifying and localizing cerebral lipids and investigating the breakdown of myelin sheath in multiple sclerosis.
After a spell in the United States as a visiting research worker at the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, he returned to London and in 1965 was appointed to the chair of pathology at Guy’s Hospital medical school where, following the pattern established by his predecessor Payling Wright [Munk s Roll, Vol. V, p.461], he continued the strong departmental emphasis on experimental pathology. He reorganized the teaching of pathology at Guy’s and when the school merged with St Thomas’ as the United Medical and Dental Schools, he played a leading role in planning the new unified department and curriculum. Until his retirement he was Sir William Dunn professor of pathology at the united schools.
Taking early retirement in 1987 he continued his research into the pathology of multiple sclerosis at Runwell Hospital, investigating the hypothesis that the disease is initiated by damage to the small vessels of the white matter. His most recent publication was a finely illustrated atlas of the demyelinating diseases, Colour atlas of multiple sclerosis and disorders of myelin, London, Wolfe Medical Publications, 1988, and his other publications included Vascular histochemistry, London, Lloyd-Luke, 1967; Research on multiple sclerosis, with S Leibowitz, Springfield, Illinois, USA, Thomas, 1972 and Multiple sclerosis: pathology, diagnosis and management, edited, with J F Hallpike and W W Tourtellotte, 1983.
He was a modest man, tolerant and friendly, with a great gift for the written word. He was an excellent teacher and, as a prolific writer himself, gave valuable help to his juniors and others in writing scientific papers. Outside medicine, he was an expert on porcelain -especially Chinese - and had a knack of spotting a Ming vase in the most unlikely places. Where porcelain was damaged, his repair was of professional standard. He was also very knowledgeable on antiques and paintings, and a keen gardener. He married Anne Brownhill in 1953 and they had one son.
[The Lancet, 1990,335,530; The Times, 8 Feb 1990; The Daily Telegraph, 3 Feb 1990]