Dr Chalmers was born at Sunderland, co. Durham, the son of James Chalmers, a general practitioner in the town, who was also honorary consulting physician to the Sunderland Royal Infirmary, and of Jeanie, daughter of James Ninian Marshall, a timber merchant. He was educated at Fettes College and the University of Glasgow. After holding house officer appointments at the Western Infirmary, Glasgow, and at Motherwell County Hospital he was awarded the McCunn research fellowship in 1937, and in 1939 became assistant director of the department of clinical investigation at the University of Manchester and at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he continued the research into lead poisoning which he had commenced in Glasgow. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the 1939-45 War in Nigeria, the Middle East and Ceylon, where he commanded the medical division of the 35th British General Hospital.
After demobilisation he was supernumerary senior medical registrar to Professor John McMichael at the Postgraduate Medical School, and in 1947 was appointed lecturer in haematology at St. George’s Hospital Medical School, where he was later senior lecturer and Laking-Dakin research fellow. During his tenure of these appointments, with the help of a Rockefeller research grant and a Government grant through the Royal Society, he carried out research into the blood groups of Basques and West Africans (Amer. J. phys. Anthrop., 1949, 7, 529-48), and published papers on the pure red cell anaemia associated with thymic tumours (Brit, med. J., 1954, 2, 1514-18). In 1955 he succeeded Dr A. L. P. Peeney as director of clinical pathology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where he remained until his death. During his later years he conducted important research into oral vitamin B12 therapy (Lancet, 1958, 2, 1298-1302), and into lead poisoning among enamellers in the Birmingham jewellery industry. He was a founder fellow of the College of Pathologists.
Dr Chalmers was a most able clinical haematologist and an excellent administrator. He took a great interest in the junior members of his department, many of whom became haematologists of repute. A devout churchman, he was an elder of the Presbyterian Church. His chief leisure interests were Rugby football, golf, gardening, foreign travel and stamp collecting, but he retained a keen interest in his old school and was a past president of the Midland branch of the Old Fettesian Association.
In 1940 he married Miss Agnes Steedman, B.Sc., a Glasgow graduate; they had one son and two daughters.
Richard R Trail
[Brit.med.J., 1965, 2, 486, 827; Lancet, 1965, 2, 348.]