Roddie, Ian Campbell (1928–2011), physiologist and academic, was born on 1 December 1928 in Belfast, third of four sons of J. R. Wesley Roddie (d. 1953), a methodist minister, and his wife Mary Hill (née Wilson; d. 1973); the four brothers all entered the medical profession. Rev. Roddie, a well-known preacher, was stationed during a long career in various churches throughout Ireland, mostly in Belfast, Bangor, Derry and Portadown, and was president of the Methodist Church in Ireland in 1950. Mary Wilson Roddie came from a farming family in Straid, Co. Antrim, that produced several distinguished doctors and academics, including Thomas Wilson (d. 2001), an influential economist. Ian's aunt Victoria Wilson married (Arthur) Geoffrey Bewley (qv).
After attending Methodist College Belfast, Ian Roddie entered QUB (1946), and graduated with first-class honours in physiology (1950). He went on to study medicine at QUB, winning the Malcolm scholarship (1951) and the McQuitty scholarship (1953), and graduated MB, B.Ch. and BAO (1953). The next year he spent as a houseman in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, then returned to QUB to lecture in physiology from 1954. Joining a team researching vasoconstriction, its causes and effects, and the control by the nervous system of peripheral blood vessels, he developed a research programme to explore the effects of mental stress on the peripheral circulation and to study the lymphatic circulation. He and his team also worked on the potential and actual effects of cardiovascular drugs on the peripheral blood vessels. Their experiments and analyses gave rise to over seventy publications in which Roddie eventually appeared as lead author, and to conclusions about physiological mechanisms, still regarded as valid. Some of the articles, as well as two textbooks, Physiology for practitioners (1971) and The physiology of disease (1975) – the latter written jointly with William F. M. Wallace, professor of applied physiology in QUB – were contributions of lasting value and very widely used, appearing in several editions and in Italian, Spanish and German translations.
Roddie's successful research career earned him the degree of MD, with gold medal (QUB, 1957). A Commonwealth Fund Harkness fellowship allowed him to spend a sabbatical year at the University of Washington, Seattle (1960–61), and he was awarded the degree of D.Sc. (QUB, 1962). As his reputation grew, he was promoted in Queen's from lecturer to senior lecturer, and then reader by 1964, and succeeded the eminent researcher David Greenfield as Dunville professor of physiology (1964–87).
He owed further advancement in the university hierarchy to his executive and administrative strengths. He was a decisive leader of the medical school, and in 1976 was elected dean of the medical faculty. Particularly supportive of junior staff, he was accorded great respect by undergraduate and postgraduate students, who elected him president of the Belfast Medical Students' Association, a signal honour. Roddie's approach to teaching generations of students was based on a clear and reflective methodology of medical education, and to careful preparation. His pioneering book of multiple-choice questions on physiology (co-authored with Wallace), which first appeared in 1971, was widely used, but perhaps not exactly popular with students; five further editions were published up to 2004, as well as Italian and Japanese versions. Roddie took pride in the careful design of the questions and marking scheme, which responded to the new requirements for assessing students.
Although he recognised the dangers of short-lived fads in educational theory (and in a number of his essays, cogently and elegantly decried such novelties), Roddie was influentially involved in setting up new systems of medical education in Queen's, reforming the syllabus and looking at novel ways of selecting, teaching, and testing students. Important in the provision of medical services in the community, he was consultant physiologist to the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority (1962–72) and the Eastern Health Board (1972–88). He served on the Eastern Area Health and Social Services Board (1976–81), and on Northern Ireland's General Medical Council and General Dental Council (1979–81).
While keeping his university research, teaching, administrative and publishing activities going, alongside service on public bodies, Roddie also served as external examiner in colleges of medicine and in fifteen universities throughout the world, listing them alphabetically in his Who's who entry from Aberdeen to Zimbabwe. He had sabbaticals in a number of universities, including a stint in Australia and Japan (1983–4). He finished his career in QUB as pro-vice-chancellor (1984–7), his experience and oversight greatly valued by the vice-chancellor, Sir Peter Froggatt, and by colleagues throughout the university.
Colleagues were surprised when Roddie left the university in 1987 with little warning and less fuss, several years before normal retirement age, to take on a whole range of new international challenges, consolidating his reputation as an expert in the education of medical students. He was visiting professor in the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1988–90), and director of medical education (1990–94) and deputy medical director (1991–4) in the King Khalid National Guard Hospital, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At the same time, he continued to work as a consultant with various international agencies, assessing and advising on medical education in developing countries, notably with the Asian Development Bank (1987–8) and the World Bank (1989–2004), working mainly in Africa. This 'second career' involved work in at least thirty countries, and lasted until he was 75. His observations and views on medical education and on university education in general were distilled into inspiring lectures and elegant and lucid articles in the Lancet and elsewhere. He warned of the danger of universities giving in to funding pressure and passing fads, and losing sight of common sense and truth, most notably in his essay 'The pre-emptive cringe' in Perspectives: News in Physiological Sciences (February 1990).
Roddie was ahead of contemporaries in appreciating and understanding the role that technology and computers would play in medicine. He was president of the Ulster Biomedical Engineering Society (1979–83), and it is notable that his Who's who entry is one of the few of his generation that displays an email address. Somewhat unusually for an Ulster academic at the time, he participated from early in his career in medical and scholarly institutions in the Republic of Ireland, regularly attending meetings in Dublin of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland (RAMI) and serving as its president (1964–6). Elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1978, he served on its biological sciences committee. He was awarded the Conway medal of the RAMI (1977), was appointed CBE (1987), and was an honorary member of the Physiological Society from 1989 (he had been chairman of one of its committees (1985–8)).
In his private life, Roddie suffered a great loss in June 1974 when his wife, Elizabeth Ann Gillon (née Honeyman) Roddie, aged 39, died of breast cancer. They had married in 1958, and had a son and three daughters. In an unusually personal and poignant article in the British Medical Journal (December 1998), 'Coming to terms with death', he published some of his wife's poems about her suffering and despair, noting that the last of these, 'The meeting', told of 'the calm and gentle way she came to terms with her death and it broke my heart'. Roddie married secondly (1974) Katherine Ann O'Hara, a general practitioner, with whom he had a son and daughter; the marriage ended in divorce in 1983. Just after he retired from QUB in 1987, he married thirdly Janet Doreen Saville (née Lennon). They moved to Spain, but separated in 2005, and afterwards Roddie lived in London. When finally retired, he worked on the history of both sides of his family, from Antrim and Donegal. After a long illness, he died on 28 May 2011 in Royal Trinity Hospice, London, and was cremated at Putney Vale crematorium.