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22 October 2021

Professor Stephen McMahon 1954 - 2021

Tribute to Professor Stephen McMahon, Sherrington Professor of Physiology in Wolfson CARD, who passed away in October 2021.

Professor Stephen McMahon

Stephen McMahon, Sherrington Professor of Physiology in Wolfson CARD, was an inspirational scientist to colleagues and students alike. He was a prolific researcher, publishing more than 300 original research articles, and was co-editor of the Textbook of Pain. His work has been published in leading scientific journals such as Nature, Nature Medicine, Science, Nature Neuroscience, Cell, Neuron and Brain. He was an Elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 1999 and the recipient of the British Neuroscience Association’s Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience award in 2019.

Mac, as Stephen was fondly known, had spent most of his career at King’s and was a tremendous colleague and friend undertaking great research and occupying the significant position of Sherrington Professor of Physiology. He is and will be greatly missed by all of those who had the pleasure of working with him.

Professor Ian Everall, Executive Dean of IoPPN

He was a colossal scientific figure in his field, known throughout the world, whose research will continue to have an important impact for people suffering pain and recovering from neurological injury. Mac was a great friend to many people in King’s and beyond, and will be deeply missed.

Professor Mark Richardson, Vice Dean School of Neuroscience

Stephen McMahon gained his BSc (Hons) and PhD at the University of Leeds before becoming a post-doc and lecturer at University College London. He moved to King’s College London (formerly UMDS) in 1984 where he established his own research group within the St. Thomas’ Hospital Medical School and was promoted to Sherrington Professor of Physiology in 1996.

At the Wolfson CARD, we are all devastated by the loss of Mac. He was a wonderful scientist and mentor, who was generous with his time and ideas. The feedback he would provide his many students, postdocs and collaborators was unfailingly original and kind – designed to make you think, without ever making you feel stupid. We will miss him greatly.

Dr Franziska Denk, Senior Lecturer, Wolfson CARD

His research has contributed to various clinical trials of potential novel therapies. He was a strong proponent of the wider dissemination of scientific research to younger scientists and the general public.

In addition to running the McMahon Lab, Professor McMahon was a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator and the director of the Wellcome Trust Pain Consortium, a group of leading pain researchers studying chronic pain mechanisms to improve treatments.


Mac was a much-loved colleague, mentor, and friend to many of us. He had a profound influence on the lives and careers of a legion of researchers worldwide, from undergraduates to world-leading scientists; a truly amazing legacy from a truly amazing man.

Professor Elizabeth Bradbury, Professor of Regenerative Medicine & Neuroplasticity, Wolfson CARD

Mac's group were very much the heart and soul of the Wolfson CARD, and he will be sorely missed. However, his legacy will live on as some outstanding scientists who trained in his lab, including Professor Bradbury and Dr Denk, established their own independent labs in the Wolfson CARD several years ago.

Professor Patrick Doherty, Emeritus Professor

He moved to the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases in the School of Neuroscience at IoPPN in 2004, where he continued to lead a diverse programme of research, primarily focusing on mechanisms of pain and somatosensation, using multi-disciplinary methodology ranging from molecular biology, neuroimmunology, and electrophysiology to translational and human studies.




Mac was a truly amazing person, one of a kind. It has been a privilege and pleasure to have worked with Mac and be part of his team. We will all treasure our happy memories. Forever in our hearts.

Vivien Cheah, Research Manager, Wolfson CARD

Mac was a key figure in the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases since its inception. He had enormous influence on the growth of research on pain at King's and in the Wolfson in particular, where it has become the major research strong point of the Wolfson. He was fantastic at getting disparate groups of people together in collaborative grant applications, amongst them the London Pain Consortium that supported pain research in many labs in London and elsewhere.

Professor Peter McNaughton, Professor of Pharmacology, Wolfson CARD

The thoughts and deepest sympathies of the IoPPN community are with Professor McMahon’s family, colleagues, collaborators and friends.

A page has been set up to raise funds for the charity Freedom from Torture, which Professor McMahon has supported for many years.