Obituary: In memory of John McConnell

In February 2022, the editing community sadly lost one of its most experienced and respected members, John McConnell. John was the founding Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Infectious Diseases and a much-loved member of the Lancet team for over thirty years. John was a truly wonderful editor, very dedicated and passionate for his field and hugely respected by his community of authors and researchers. During the pandemic he and his team moved mountains by providing guidance both internally and externally to deal with the enormous increase in submissions. John was a mentor to many staff at The Lancet and beyond, and he would always spare his time to share his vast knowledge and expertise with his colleagues.

John gained a degree in clinical microbiology and parasitology from the University of East London in 1982 before spending six years researching septic-shock-related topics at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London.

Joining The Lancet in 1990, he worked as a peer review editor before becoming the first editor of the journal’s website in 1996 and the Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, which published its first issue in August 2001. John was instrumental in advancing the Lancet journals’ coverage of global disease outbreaks such as the 2009 influenza pandemic, SARS, Ebola, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, he was a member of the organising committees for, among others, conferences on influenza in Singapore and Beijing, mass gatherings medicine in Jeddah, HIV in San Francisco, and he chaired the organising committee of the 2016 Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh Infectious Diseases Symposium. In 2011, he was awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. John has authored research papers, editorials and commentaries, and delivered lectures on infection-related topics and on academic publishing, including at the 2021 EASE Conference.

“John was a brilliant editor. He built The Lancet Infectious Diseases up from an idea into a powerful and passionate voice for his subject. But John was so much more than that. John was in many ways the conscience of The Lancet. He was the longest serving member of our team — by one week. He and I both joined the journal in the summer of 1990. But that week made all the difference. John loved The Lancet and he loved what we stood for. He defended our values for over three decades. This is such a terrible day.”

Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet