Dr Michael William Johnstone

Personal Details

Dr Michael William Johnstone MB BS BAO MD FFARCS DA 

06/02/1919 to 01/10/2007

Place of birth: Ireland

Nationality: Irish

CRN: 521076

Education and qualifications

General education

N. Ireland Senior Certificate, June 1936

Primary medical qualification(s)

Queen’s University, Belfast 1941, MB BS BAO

Initial Fellowship and type

FFARCS by Election

Year of Fellowship


Other qualification(s)

DA RCP, Ireland 1945.   MD 1948 Queen’s U. Belfast


Professional life and career

Postgraduate career

Michael Johnstone has been described as a true doyen of postwar anaesthesia in Britain. The triumvirate of Raventos, Suckling and Johnstone are forever associated with the development of halothane.

He graduated from the medical school of Belfast Queen’s University in 1941. His early interest in anaesthesia started as a medical student. After qualification whilst working on general duties at Winnick Hospital in Warrington  he initially trained himself in anaesthesia,  moving to the hospital  Bolton as Assistant Medical Officer EMS. With the arrival of the NHS he was appointed as the first SHMO and subsequently consultant. He gained the Irish DA in 1945. In 1953 he moved to both the Manchester Royal Infirmary and  the Crumpsall Hospital in North Manchester. Later he worked entirely at the MRI, including the St. Mary’s Women and Childrens Hospital on the same Oxford Road site, where he remained until retirement.

Professional interests and activities

His colleagues, Anderton and Young in their obituary describe Johnstone as an Ulsterman and perhaps the most imaginative anaesthetist of his generation. In 1947 Bolton Hospital acquired its first ECG machine and he was given the task of setting up a hospital  ECG department. Realising the potential,  he was one of the first to monitor the ECG in the operating theate, consequently writing his MD thesis on the effects of anaesthetic agents upon the heart in 1948. This became the springboard,  which ultimately led to his involvement with the initial work of Raventos and Suckling’s developmental work at ICI with halothane. Those doyens of anaesthetic history are encouraged to explore the full halothane story themselves. Johnstone even persuaded Cyprane to make an experimental  10% Fluotec vaporizer to enable him to experiment with halothane and low flow circuits. During his career he also conducted work on the cardiovascular effects of ergot in the post partum patient along with numerous other studies and publications  involving cardiac and anaesthesia pharmacology.

He was additionally a pioneer for the development and training of Operating Department Assistants within the NHS.

Other professional honours bestowed upon him were by the Manchester Medical Society, and the Asociation of Anaesthetists which awarded him the Pask Certificate of Honour in 1981 and finally Honorary Membership of the AAGBI in 1989.

Other biographical information

Dr Johnstone passed away following the consequences of a stroke. He was married to Moira for many years, with four children and eight grandchildren.

Author and sources

Author: Innes Simon Chadwick

Sources and comments:

Obituary. Michael Johnstone. JM Anderton, TM Young. Anaesthesia 2008. 83: 218-9

UK GMC Register 1955 and 1959.  UK and Ireland Medical and Dental Students Register 1936, accessed on line via Ancestry.com

Halothane A Clinical Assessment. Brennan HJ, Hunter AR, Johnstone M. Lancet 1957. 270: 6993, 453-7

The Human Cardiovascular Response to Fluothane Anaesthesia. Johnstone M, British Journal Anaesthesia; 1956 ; 28 392-410

The Introduction of Halothane into Clinical Practice: The Oxford Experience. O’Brien HD. Anaesthesia and Intensive Care 2006; 36:  sup1 27-32

A Review of the Pharmacology of Halothane. Black GW. British Journal Anaesthesia. 1965; 37: 688-705

Halothane:  The First Five Years, Review Article. Johnstone M. Anaesthesiology 1961: 591-618

Photo attached to Association of Anaesthetists: Anaesthesia obituary: Michael Johnstone - Young - 2008 - Anaesthesia - Wiley Online Library