About me

I am an Emeritus Professor of Dermatology at the University of Edinburgh (2020). I held the Grant Chair of Dermatology in Edinburgh from 2000 to 2020, and before that the Chair of Dermatology in Newcastle from 1992 to 1999. I trained in dermatology and clinical science in Newcastle, Vienna and Strasbourg.

Academically, I tend to be a serial monomaniac, although much of my work has focussed on skin cancer and the effects of ultraviolet radiation on skin. I have researched in several domains: skin syndrome gene identification, skin cancer genetics, including some work on p53 and UVR, the identification of the gene for red hair and sun sensitivity, and work on semi-automated skin cancer diagnostic support systems. I am probably most proud of the papers I have written on the nature of clinical discovery and the relation between science and medicine. There are more details on the Projects Page.

I am a past president of the European Society for Dermatological Research (my ‘academic home’), a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an honorary member of the American Dermatological Association and a Corresponding member of the Swedish Society of Dermatology. I am a recipient of the CERIES research prize and the David Anderson medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, both for my work on ‘red hair genes’ and UVR susceptibility.

Around ten years ago my research on automated and semi-automated methods of skin cancer diagnosis (in collaboration with Bob Fisher in Edinburgh Informatics) led to an interest in how students learn and how we could and should reform medical education. My online textbook of skin cancer (for medical students), skincancer909, is here.

I continue to think and write about how we frame the relation between science and medicine, on the one hand, and the craft that is clinical practice, on the other. A recent article is here.

I continue to teach skin biology to first year medical students.

An academic cv is here.


I have two daughters from my first marriage, Rebecca and Elizabeth. I am married to Lisa Naysmith, by way of Zambia, a fellow skin watcher and dermatological surgeon.

  • Pleasures: Watching the men in red defeat England.
  • Greatest sadness: Watching the men in red lose to England.
  • Number of times played on that national stadium: 2.
  • Mission statement: do not be silly.
  • Motto: Fail. Fail again. Fail better (Beckett).

I was born three miles from Taff’s acre and spent my formative years in Cardiff. My mother was from Cork in Ireland, and my father from Neath in South Wales. I have one sibling, Alun (Al of Penglas), who lives in West Cork, near Skibbereen.