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JohnC. P. Williams of Williams-Beuren syndrome

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John C.P. Williams of New Zealand, whose name is associated with Williams-Beuren syndrome, spent his known professional career primarily in cardiovascular research. His disappearance in the mid-1970s and his later life remain a mystery.
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Pediatr Radiol
DOI 10.1007/s00247-010-1909-y
John C. P. Williams of Williams-Beuren syndrome
Howard M. Lenhoff & Rita L. Teele &
Patricia M. Clarkson & Walter E. Berdon
Received: 3 September 2010 / Revised: 26 October 2010 / Accepted: 26 October 2010
# Springer-Verlag 2010
Abstract John C.P. Williams of New Zealand, whose name
the children described in Williams’ classic 1961 paper,
is associated with Williams-Beuren syndrome, spent his
reported in 1999 that Williams had not been seen since he
known professional career primarily in cardiovascular
boarded a train en route to take a position at the Mayo Clinic.
research. His disappearance in the mid-1970s and his later
Crawford reported that Dr. Williams never claimed his
life remain a mystery.
suitcase at a London luggage office, never appeared at the
Mayo Clinic, and had not been seen since (
Keywords Williams . Beuren . History of medicine
A discussion of the evolution of Williams-Beuren
syndrome precedes this paper [1]. Spurred on by Dr. Walter
E. Berdon’s interest in presenting material on WBS for
readers of Pediatric Radiology, we did not find it difficult
to learn that Williams actually did take a job at the Mayo
The resurgence of research on Williams-Beuren syndrome
Clinic, and furthermore, it was in the laboratory of the
(WBS) has spurred interest in other contributions of Dr. John
renowned physiologist, Earl H. Wood (Fig. 1). Williams
Cyprian Phipps Williams and in the man himself. Much of this
began working in Rochester in the fall of 1962 and he kept
curiosity comes from parents who have a child with Williams
his connection with the clinic through 1968 (Appendix).
syndrome, especially since Kit Crawford, a parent of one of
One reason we succeeded in our search for Dr. Williams
was his two unusual middle names—“Cyprian Phipps.”
Using current Internet and medical search engines, it would
H. M. Lenhoff
have been most difficult to obtain information about him
Developmental & Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences,
had we searched for the relatively common name “John
University of California, Irvine,
Irvine, CA, USA
Williams.” Searching for “J.C.P. Williams” greatly simpli-
fied our work, and from some of these citations, and
R. L. Teele (*)
through contacts we had from colleagues in New Zealand,
Department of Radiology, Starship Children’s Hospital,
we found scholars and friends of Dr. Williams who had
Auckland Medical School,
Auckland, New Zealand
known him and who provided us with their recollections.
This paper summarizes information that we were able to
gather, primarily about Dr. Williams’ academic pursuits
R. L. Teele
Department of Radiology, Children’s Hospital,
Harvard Medical School,
Boston, MA, USA
P. M. Clarkson
Green Lane Paediatric and Congenital Cardiac Service,
Starship Children’s Hospital,
The individuals whom we have interviewed and who knew
Auckland, New Zealand
J.C.P. Williams generally agree that he was a talented and
engaging person. An examination of his publications shows
W. E. Berdon
a wide range of interests in cardiology and basic science. To
Department of Radiology, Children’s Hospital of New York,
New York, NY, USA
readers concerned specifically with WBS, it is interesting

Pediatr Radiol
Date and place of Birth: November 16, 1922, Wellington,
New Zealand
Academic Institutions attended, degrees awarded, and
year of award:
Bachelor of Science, 1945. Victoria College, University
of New Zealand
Bachelor of Arts, 1947. Victoria College, University of
New Zealand
Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, 1953.
Otago Medical School (Dunedin), University of New
Postgraduate Diploma: Member of the Royal Austral-
asian College of Physicians (MRACP) Fellow (1978)
Fig. 1 Photograph taken at the Mayo Clinic in 1965. From left to
Positions held (position, place, years):
right, research colleagues with John C.P. Williams (arrow) are Ralph
Sturm, Joan Frank, Clark Nolan and Lucy Cronin (Photograph
1954–1955 House surgeon (Intern), Auckland Hospital,
supplied by E. Andrew Wood)
1955 Thames Hospital, NZ
1956–1962 Auckland and Green Lane Hospitals,
that he published no further papers regarding that syn-
Auckland, NZ. Appointed cardiology consultant Green
drome. Also, we were surprised to learn that none of his
Lane Hospital 1963
immediate colleagues at the Mayo Clinic or those else-
Oct. 1, 1962, to Sept. 30, 1965. N.I.H. Postdoctoral
where whom we interviewed were aware of his classic 1961
Fellow in Cardiovascular Physiology in Laboratory of
paper on the syndrome, nor recalled him ever discussing the
Professor E.A. Wood, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN,
subject (personal communications). Those colleagues also
agree that Williams was private and exhibited a number of
Oct. 1, 1965, to Sept. 30, 1966. Consultant with
recurrent odd behaviors at work, even more so as he moved
Professor E.A. Wood, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN,
from one place to another.
Is he alive today? All that we can say for sure is that
Oct. 1, 1966, to Oct. 1, 1968. Laboratory of Professor
after he left the Mayo Clinic and University College
A.F. Huxley at University College London, UK; also
London, some friends and colleagues recall meeting him
associated with Mayo Clinic through 1968
in Europe, the last encounters occurring in Salzburg,
Position formally offered and declined:
Austria, during the mid-1970s (personal communications).
After Interpol, at the request of Williams’ sister, could not
1972. Agreed to accept job offered by Dr. Homer
find Dr. Williams in Europe, the High Court of New
Warner at Latter Day Saints Hospital, Salt Lake City,
Zealand, on Oct. 14, 1988, declared him “a missing person
but later changed his mind.
presumed to be dead from 1978” (High Court of New
Honor: Plunket Oratory Medal from Victoria University,
Zealand, Rotorua Registry M122/88). In a biography of
NZ (1944)
New Zealand author Janet Frame, Michael King gives
convincing evidence that Williams was alive in 2000 [2]. If
Dr. Williams were alive today, he would be 88 years old.
1. Lowe JB, Williams JCP, Robb D, Cole D (1959)
We thank Ms. Nicole Babcock, archivist at the
Congenital diverticulum of the left ventricle. Brit
Mayo Clinic; E. Andrew Wood of Rochester, MN, for Fig. 1; Dr. Sally
Heart J 21:101–106
Page (Dept. of Physiology, University College London); the numerous
colleagues and friends of Dr. Williams whom we interviewed, and
2. Williams JCP, Barratt-Boyes BG (1959) Atrial septal
Thomas Morgan, nephew of Dr. J.C.P. Williams, for their help.
defect: the results of repair using the atrial well. NZ
Med J 58:279–287
3. Barratt-Boyes B, Lowe JB, Cole DS, Watt WJ,
Appendix Curriculum Vitae
Williams JCP (1960) Initial experience with extracor-
poreal circulation in intracardiac surgery. Brit Med J
Name: John Cyprian Phipps Williams

Pediatr Radiol
4. Williams JCP, Barratt-Boyes BG, Lowe JB (1961)
12. Williams JC, O’Donovan PB, Vandenberg RA, Sturm
Supravalvular aortic stenosis. Circulation 24:1311–
RE, Wood EH (1968). Atriogenic mitral valve reflux:
diastolic mitral incompetence following isolated atrial
5. North JDK, Williams JCP, Howie RN (1961) Severe
systoles. Circ Res 22:19–27
hypertension treated with ganglion-blocking drugs in
13. Williams JCP, Sturm RE, Tsakiris AG, Wood EH
a general hospital. Brit Med J 1:1426–1429
(1968). Biplane videoangiography. J Appl Physiol
6. Williams JCP, Barratt-Boyes BG, Lowe JB (1963)
Underdeveloped right ventricle and pulmonary steno-
14. Williams JCP, Lambert EH, Titus JL (1969) Use of
sis. Am J Cardiol 11:458–468
intracardiac AV nodal potentials in producing
7. Williams JCP, O’Donovan TP, Wood EH (1966) A
complete heart block in dogs. J Appl Physiol
method for the calculation of areas under indicator-
dilution curves. J Appl Physiol 21:695–699
15. Vandenberg, RA, Williams JCP, Sturm RE, Wood EH
8. Williams JCP, O’Donovan TP, Cronin L, Wood EH
(1969) Effect of ventricular extrasystoles on closure of
(1967) Influence of sequence of atrial and ventricular
mitral valve. Circulation 39:197–204
systole on closure of mitral valve. J Appl Physiol
16. Vandenberg RA, Williams JCP, Sturm RE, Wood EH
(1971) Effect of varying ventricular function by
9. Boyde A, Williams JCP (1968) Proceedings of the
extrasystolic potentiation on closure of the mitral valve
Physiological Society, 22–23 March 1968, University
(Extrasystolic potentiation of ventricular contraction
College Meeting: Surface morphology of frog striated
effect on dog mitral valve function, using roentgen
muscle as prepared for and examined in the scanning
videodensitometry). Am J Cardiol 28:43–53
electron microscope. J. Physiol (Suppl) 197:10P–11P
10. Williams JC, Vandenberg RA, Sturm RE, Wood EH
(1968) Presystolic atriogenic mitral reflux developed
at abnormally long PR intervals. Cardiovasc Res
11. Williams JC, Vandenberg RA, O’Donovan TP, Sturm
1. Berdon WE, Clarkson P, Teele RL (2010) Williams-Beuren
RE, Wood EH (1968) Roentgen video densitometer
syndrome: Historical aspects. Pediatr Radiol 41, doi:10.1007/
study of mitral valve closure during atrial fibrillation.
2. King M (2000) Wrestling with the angel: a life of Janet Frame.
J Appl Physiol 24:217–224
Penguin Books, New Zealand, p 583

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JohnC. P. Williams of Williams-Beuren syndrome



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