Accessibility Page Navigation
Style sheets must be enabled to view this page as it was intended.
Green Templeton College | Oxford

EvansIt is with profound sadness that I write to inform the GTC community of the death of Professor Sir John Grimley Evans, MA, DM (MA, MD Camb), FRCP, FMedSci, FFPH, who was an Emeritus Fellow of Green Templeton College and Emeritus Professor of Clinical Geratology at Oxford University. 

Grimley was a long-time friend of Green-Templeton College, having first become associated with Green College as a Governing Body Fellow in 1985. His contribution to the College was obvious for all to see, and after distinguished service of 17 years he was made Emeritus Fellow in 2002.

Grimley studied at St John's College, Cambridge, and Balliol College, Oxford. He trained in epidemiology while working with Donald Acheson on the Oxford Record Linkage Study. He was then able to combine his interest in epidemiology with clinical practice when he conducted research in migrating Polynesians and Maori populations in NZ.

Following a lectureship at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine he returned to clinical medicine in Newcastle, becoming Professor of Geriatric Medicine in 1973, and then to University of Oxford, where he was Professor and then Emeritus Professor of Clinical Geratology.

Grimley was one of the founders of the European Academy of Medicine of Ageing and in 1998 was made a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. The Academy listed his interests as “general and geratological medicine, chronic disease epidemiology, with focus on prevention of physical, mental and social disability in later life”.

He served as Editor of the key journal in ageing research, Age and Ageing, from 1988 to 1995 and worked on two editions of the Oxford Textbook of Geriatric Medicine. He published prolifically, and his PubMed record lists over 250 scholarly papers. Among other books, he wrote Health: Abilities and Wellbeing in the Third Age (Research Paper: Carnegie Inquiry into the Third Age) in 1992 and with Stephen Pollard, Karol Sikora, and Roger Williams co-authored They've Had a Good Innings: Can the NHS Cope with an Ageing Population? in 2003. With Francis Caird, he edited several volumes of Advanced Geriatric Medicine.

Arguably one of the most challenging experiences of Grimley’s career was his medical examination (at the behest of the Home Secretary) of General Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, to determine whether he was fit enough to be extradited to Spain to stand trial on torture charges. Grimley was a deeply private man and rarely revealed the stress he was under at the time.

Grimley was a world specialist in the health of elderly people, a “luminary of geriatric medicine”, as a colleague observed. He was never afraid to voice his often forthright views, based on clinical research, and he was hugely influential in making hospitals more responsive to the needs of elderly patients.

He was still inspiring academic papers right to the end. A recent paper, accepted on the day that he died1, citing a 1995 paper of his2, concluded: “As Sir John Grimley Evans’ warned, we should avoid using evidence-based guidelines in the manner of the fabled drunkard who searched under the lamp-post for his key because that was where the light was, even though he knew he had lost his key somewhere else.”

There is a remarkable consistency in the wonderful words that colleagues are using about Grimley. In the College, he was universally seen as a man of humour, intelligence, and wisdom – “always a central positive presence in the College”. He was a respected and valued colleague, “thoughtful in an academic sense and also from a human perspective ... full of good practical advice, with touches of humour”. He was “always interesting, and interested, considerate of intellectual concerns well beyond his own specialty. And unfailingly courteous and thoughtful in all his contributions to the considerable work he did for the College.” He will be greatly missed.

Joking that it was “love in the asylum”, he met his wife, Corinne, at Littlemore mental hospital, where he was briefly medical registrar and she was a clinical psychologist. They were married in 1966, and had three children. Grimley was a much-loved husband, father and grandfather; our thoughts are with his family.

A private interment of Sir John’s ashes took place on 13 April 2018, and a College celebration of his life has been organised for 1 June 2018 (4pm-6pm, in the Radcliffe Observatory at GTC). RSVP by email here or by calling 01865 284550.


Denise Lievesley


1 Greenhalgh T. Of lamp posts, keys, and fabled drunkards: A perspectival tale of 4 guidelines. J Eval Clin Pract 2018 Apr 15.

2 Evans JG. Evidence‐based and evidence‐biased medicine. Age Ageing 1995; 24(6): 461‐3.