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Biographical Outline of Archibald Leman Cochrane (1909-1988)

Born at 05.00h, 12 January at Kirklands, Galashiels, County of Selkirk, Scotland, first son of Walter Francis Cochrane and Emma Mabel (nee Purdom) Cochrane. Baptized 23 March, 1909 in Galashiels.


Archie Cochrane's Birth Certificate
Archie Cochrane's Birth Certificate

(Archie's sister, Helen Mabel Cochrane, was born almost two years earlier on 17 July 1907 and died after Archie in 2002.)

Archie's brother, Robert Purdom Cochrane, was born on 23 August.

Archie's youngest brother, Walter Lees Cochrane, was born on 17 April.

Attends preparatory school at Rhos-on-Sea, North Wales.


Walter Cochrane's Headstone
Walter Cochrane's Headstone

His father, Walter Francis Cochrane, who was a tweed manufacturer before the war, was killed at the Battle of Gaza, 19 April, 1917, serving as a Captain with the 1st/4th Battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, and buried at Gaza War Cemetery, Israel.

Archie's youngest brother, also named Walter, unfortunately died at an early age of tuberculous pneumonia soon after his father.

Archie and Robert Cochrane
Archie Cochrane (left) with his younger brother Robert in 1920.
(Picture: Reproduced by kind permission of BMJ Books from "One Man's Medicine" Cochrane A.L., Blythe M. 1989 Br Med J.)

Pupil at Uppingham School, Rutland. School prefect and member of Rugby Football First XV. Wins scholarship to King’s College, University of Cambridge.
In 1924, Archie's grandfather Robert Purdom (i.e. his mother's father) died, see:


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Robert Purdom
Robert Purdom (1846-1924)

Attends King’s College, University of Cambridge: awarded First Class Honours in Parts I and II of the Natural Sciences Tripos.
Goes on to complete second MB.


Archie Cochrane's First Class Honours certificate from University of Cambridge
Archie Cochrane's First Class Honours certificate from University of Cambridge
Archie Cochrane as a Medical Student
Archie Cochrane as a Medical Student

Robert Purdom Cochrane, Archie's brother, died on 23 August 1930 in a motor cycle accident.

Research student at Strangeways Laboratory, Cambridge.

Awarded a Master of Arts Degree at University of Cambridge, 26 January, 1934. 


Archie Cochrane's MA Certificate
University of Cambridge, Master of Arts Degree certificate

Later, between 1933 and 1934, studied psychoanalysis (and at the same time had treatment himself) with Theodor Reik (pictured below) at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, University of Vienna and the Hague.

Theodor Reik
Theodor Reik (1888-1969) an eminent Viennese psychologist was one of Sigmund Freud's earliest and most brilliant students
Vienna Report Book Cover (Cochrane Archive) 
Vienna Report Book Inner Pages (Cochrane Archive)
Vienna Report Book Inner Pages


Archie Cochrane's Attendance Certificate, University of Vienna
Archie Cochrane's Attendance Certificate, University of Vienna

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Starts his medical studies at University College Hospital, London. Published his first paper, entitled: "Elie Metschnikoff and his theory of an 'instinct de la mort'." (Int J Psychoanalysis 1934; 15: 1-14.)

Serves in Spain with the Spanish Medical Aid Committee's Field Ambulance Unit on the Aragon front and at the siege of Madrid, serving in the battles of Jarama and Brunete. Returns to England to continue medical studies in August 1937.
Also in 1937, Emma, his mother, dies in Edinburgh.


Archie Cochrane with International Brigade Officer
Archie Cochrane with International Brigade Officer


Continues his medical studies at University College Hospital, London. Qualifies as a doctor — MB BCh (Cantab) — on 14 March, 1938 (Certificate below).


Archie Cochrane's Medical Registration Letter
Archie Cochrane's Medical Registration Letter

House Physician, West London Hospital. Later a research assistant in the Medical Unit, University College Hospital, London.

Serves as a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, 'D' Battalion Layforce (see below). On 1 June, 1941 taken prisoner in Crete and serves as Medical Officer in Salonica, Hildburghhausen, Elsterhorst and Wittenberg-am-Elbe prisoner of war camps.


Archie Cochrane and Identity Card
Archie Cochrane and Identity Card


Awarded an MBE (Military) by King George VI, 1 January 1945, in recognition of his 'Gallant and Distinguished' services in the war as a doctor working in the prisoner of war camps. In 1946 is presented with a Rockefeller Fellowship, which enabled him to take the Diploma in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, under the influence of Professor (later Sir) Austin Bradford Hill.


Archie Cochrane's MBE Letter
Archie Cochrane's MBE Letter - from King George VI

Clinical attachment at the Henry Phipps Institute in Philadelphia, USA. Here his research interests in the x-ray study of pulmonary tuberculosis and observer error in the interpretation of x-ray films develop.

Member of the Medical Research Council’s Pneumoconiosis Research Unit, Cardiff under the leadership of the Director, Charles Fletcher. 

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Archie Cochrane in 1949
Archie Cochrane in 1949

Main research interests include: the x-ray classification of coal workers' pneumoconiosis; the relationship between dust exposure, x-ray category of pneumoconiosis, and disability; the aetiology of progressive massive fibrosis. His work also included the innovative Rhondda Fach Scheme — a survey of chest diseases among the population of two South Wales mining communities.


Miner Collecting Lamp (Cochrane Archive)
Reminder tags are attached to the lamp brackets of miners who have not yet attended for x-ray


Ladies-Only X-Ray Session (Cochrane Archive)
One of the mass radiography sessions held during the first Rhondda Fach Survey in 1950.
(Pictures above: Crown copyright. From Archie Cochrane's autobiography "One Man's Medicine". Reproduced with permission of the Controller of HMSO and Queen's Printer for Scotland.)

Appointed David Davies Professor of Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases at the Welsh National School of Medicine (now School of Medicine, Cardiff University). Appointed Honorary Director of the Medical Research Council’s Epidemiology Unit, Cardiff and in 1969, after retiring as Professor, he was appointed Director.

Main research interests: the application and promotion of randomised controlled trials (RCTs), the validation of screening strategies, and health services research. (MRCP, 1961; FRCP, 1965.)

In 1961, Archie presented the 'Cutter Lecture on Preventive Medicine', one of the most respected institutionalised lectures in the field of preventive medicine and epidemiology, administered by the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, USA (Br Med J 1988; 297: 419).

Awarded the CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to the Welsh National School of Medicine (now School of Medicine, Cardiff University).


Archie Cochrane's CBE Medal
Archie Cochrane's CBE Medal

Member of the Welsh Arts Council Visual Art Committee, also a member of the Broadcasting Council for Wales. Archie was on the Selection Committee responsible for buying pictures for the National Museum of Wales between 1971-1974.

Publication of Rock Carling Lecture*, Effectiveness and Efficiency. Its publication (in over 8 languages) evokes widespread international debate, stimulating critical evaluation of health services worldwide.

(*Note: The Rock Carling Fellowship is awarded annually — the recipient is required to review the state of knowledge and activity in his/her particular field and publish it as a monograph. The monograph is published by the Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust [which also funded the compilation of the Cochrane Archive] and launched at a public lecture by the author. The Fellowship commemorates the late Sir Ernest Rock Carling — Trustee and Chairman of the Nuffield Provincial Hospital Medical Advisory Committee.)


Archie Cochrane with Presidents of the RCP
(Front row) Lord Rosenheim, President of the Royal College of Physicians of London, alongside Archie, President of the RCP, 15 March, 1972. In the background are Board Members and other Presidents of the Royal Colleges of Phycicians.

Appointed first President of the Faculty of Community Medicine of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom* (from 1972-1975). (*Now Faculty of Public Health of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom.)

Archie presented the Faculty with monies for an annual award, called the 'Cochrane Prize' to be " . . . awarded to a group of students, rather than an individual, for a topic concerned with research or practice in the field of public health medicine. The value of the prize will not exceed £150 in any one year, to be divided equally between all members of the group, subject to a maximum of £50 per student." 


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Archie Cochrane Receiving Honorary Degree at York University
Archie Cochrane Receiving Honorary Degree at York University

Continues his attachment to the Medical Research Council’s Epidemiology Unit, although he 'semi-retired' in 1974 (as he called his retirement in One Man's Medicine). Presents the Dunham Lectures at Harvard University, USA (arguably one of the highest honours given to a non-American scientist). (Honorary Fellow of the American Epidemiological Society, 1975.)

Awarded an Honorary Doctorate (DSc) at the University of Rochester, USA (see Certificate below) and, in the same year, Honorary fellow of the International Epidemiological Association.


University of Rochester Certificate
University of Rochester Certificate

Read the appraisal of Archie Cochrane by the University of Rochester which is attached to this certificate:

Follow-up studies of Rhondda Fach Scheme and others are completed. Lectures and travels abroad extensively.

Tylorstown Pithead (Cochrane Archive)
The pithead at Tylorstown Colliery in the Rhondda valley in 1950, showing the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit's mobile x-ray service.
(Picture: Crown copyright. From Archie Cochrane's autobiography "One Man's Medicine". Reproduced with permission of the Controller of HMSO and Queen's Printer for Scotland.)

Archie is filmed giving an in-depth interview about his life and work to Max Blythe for the Medical Sciences Video Archive.

Dies peacefully at his nephew’s home in Dorset on 18th June, aged 79.


Archie Cochrane's Death Certificate
Archie Cochrane's Death Certificate

Read an obituary of Archie Cochrane written in the 75th Anniversary edition of the MRC News by Dr Peter Elwood, Director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit (South Wales) in 1988:

Read a self-written obituary in the British Medical Journal (1988 BMJ 297: 63):

A year after his death, his autobiography, "One Man’s Medicine" is published. A close friend,  Max Blythe, collaborates with Archie Cochrane for three years prior to 1988 and, following Archie's death, edits and completes the work.

On his death, Archie left a bequest of more than £300,000 to Green College, with a wish that " . . . part of this [money] should be made available for use in the field of randomised clinical trials." (Source: Green College Record 1989)