University of Minnesota

Keith Ball, MD, FRCP, OBE

1915 — 2008

Keith Ball, consultant and “sub-dean” of Middlesex Hospital Medical School,
was an early leading preventive cardiologist and founder of the Action on
Smoking and Health and the Coronary Prevention Group. He was “death on
smoking,” and a thorn in the side of the tobacco industry.

Graduate of Middlesex, he was Senior Registrar there during the London Blitz
and after the war was physician for UNRRA in Germany, dealing with survivors
of camps, which stimulated his career with the social determinants of
disease. The remainder of his life’s work was at Middelsex Hospital where he
headed a department of lung and heart disease and educated generations of
devoted students.

His major contribution to the Tobacco Wars was his shepherding the
non-activist Royal College of Physicians into a public health stance and
launching of the first national Report on Smoking and Health in 1962, which
not only had a profound influence in the UK but also in initiation of the
1964 U.S.Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health.

Ball was similarly central to activating the resistant British Cardiac
Society to produce an early and influential report on prevention of coronary
disease. His humor and intensity carried him through tough times fighting
the influence of the Tobacco Industry and the apathy of his elite academic

His retirement career became a pioneering effort in primary prevention of
industrial diseases in a developing country: Ladakh, a remote Himalayan

It was complained about Prof. Ball that he often harangued, and talked too
long, about the “iniquities of unhealthy living.” This was true even after
he departed Baptism for Quakerism. He once wrote me a pointed complaint
after my return to Minnesota that my “otherwise impressive lecture” in
London suffered from too-rapid progression of lantern slides. He was right.
He died at age 93.



Obituary. British Medical Journal 336: 452, 2008.