A PIONEERING professor who helped millions of asthma sufferers breathe easy has died aged 84.

Professor Tim Clark was educated at Christ’s Hospital school near Horsham after gaining a scholarship there at the age of ten.

He went on to become a leading academic in the field of asthma, his groundbreaking research paving the way for the lifesaving steroid treatments sufferers benefit from today.

As part of crack team set up by the Medical Research Council to combat a sharp rise in asthma-related deaths in the Sixties, Prof Clark debunked myths claiming aerosol gases in existing inhalers were causing the deaths.

Instead he concluded the rise had been caused by under-use of steroids to treat the condition, prompting lifesaving national efforts to properly train doctors on the topic.

Prof Clark died peacefully in his sleep on July 14 after a long period of illness.

The Argus: Prof Clark helped tackle a spike in asthma-related deaths during the Sixties. Photo: Imperial College LondonProf Clark helped tackle a spike in asthma-related deaths during the Sixties. Photo: Imperial College London

Paying tribute, a Christ’s Hospital spokeswoman said the physician’s journey towards groundbreaking research began as a schoolboy.

“On gaining a scholarship to Christ Hospital at the age of ten, Tim joined the school in 1946,” she said.

“He was academic and sporty, his main love being cricket. He was in the first eleven as a slow leg spin bowler; once being mentioned in (cricket bible) Wisden.

“He was encouraged by the school medical officer to consider a career in medicine and he ultimately applied to Guy’s Hospital, London.”

Prof Clark attended his interview in Christ Hospital’s Tudor school uniform, complete with knee-breeches and long yellow socks.

Despite causing some amusement among his fellow students, he earned a place at the hospital and began his training in 1954.

Prof Clark qualified as a doctor in 1960, showing a keen interest in treatment for lung conditions.

But treatment for asthma sufferers at the time was poor.

The powerful steroid prednisone caused side effects including cataracts, osteoperosis, and easy bruising, leading scientists to conclude it was unsafe for children.

The Argus: Prof Clark was a cricket fan throughout his lifeProf Clark was a cricket fan throughout his life

And with asthma deaths rising in the latter half of the decade, Prof Clark joined the Medical Research Council’s Committee on Deaths from Asthma to find a solution to the rising problem.

Eventually Prof Clark found the development of fast-acting inhalers were giving patients a false sense of security and recommended the use of more steroid treatments to prevent deaths.

His theory worked wonders as the epidemic declined following the introduction of training centres teaching doctors how to better treat asthma patients.

Prof Clark went on to publish Asthma in 1977 with research partner Simon Godfrey, a leading text copiously studied by healthcare workers.

He later served as dean of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London and as vice-chairman of the National Asthma Campaign between 1992 and 2000.

Prof Clark is survived by wife Ann, four children and six grandchildren.