Elected F.R.S. 1971
D.R. Wilkie entered University College London (UCL), which was to be his lifelong academic home, in 1940 to study medicine on the shortened wartime course. He soon showed his great academic ability and won the Rockefeller Scholarship that took him to Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, for the last year of his medical education, where he obtained his MD. He returned to University College Hospital as house physician in 1944 and, quite exceptionally, obtained his MRCP in that same academic year. The Physiology Department of UCL appointed him to an assistant lectureship in 1945 when he was 23 years old and, apart from a period of military service at the Institute of Aviation Medicine in Farnborough, from 1948 to 1950, he worked there until his retirement in 1988. During the period 1951–54 he held a Locke Fellowship of The Royal Society. In 1945 A.V. Hill, F.R.S., then nearly 60, had returned to his laboratories at UCL to resume the muscle research interrupted by the war. Wilkie evidently soon fell under his spell and he took up some of Hill's lifelong interests: the mechanics of muscle, its relation to human performance and the application of thermodynamics to muscle contraction. In addition, he adopted something of Hill's style of research, characterized by the application of basic principles and measurements from physics, mathematics and chemistry to the understanding of the behaviour of human or muscle, together with ingenuity in the invention of methods. Wilkie's research work started with the application of muscle mechanics to human movement. He critically tested the current theories of muscle mechanics and then took up the question of the supply of chemical energy for muscle contraction. Through initiating collaborations he brought together the experimental study of the chemical changes in muscle with that of the output of energy as heat and as work. These experiments, along with his 1960 review (12)*, put this subject of ‘chemical energetics of muscle contraction’ back on the thermodynamic rails from which it had strayed and allowed the subject to make further progress, exposing again the limitations of the current theories. In 1969 A.F. (later Sir Andrew) Huxley, F.R.S. (P.R.S. 1980–85), head of UCL's Physiology Department, stepped aside to take a Royal Society Chair and it was natural that Wilkie, by then holder of a personal chair and a major force in medical education, should be asked to lead the department. He filled that role conscientiously for 10 years. Although his personal involvement in scientific experimentation had consequently to be reduced during this period, his interest in muscle energy supply led to a new enthusiasm: the application of magnetic resonance spectroscopy, first to the study of isolated muscles, in collaboration with G.K. Radda (F.R.S. 1980) and D.G. Gadian in Oxford, and then, with his UCL colleagues R.H.T. Edwards (Medicine), D.T. Delpy (F.R.S. 1999) (Medical Physics) and E.O.R. Reynolds (F.R.S. 1993) (Paediatrics), to the study of the brains of newborn babies. Wilkie was elected to Fellowship of The Royal Society in 1971 and to Fellowship of UCL in 1972.