Sir (Ernest) Donald Acheson KBE (17 September 1926 – 10 January 2010) was a British physician and epidemiologist who served as Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom from 1983-91. He was born in Belfast.
His father Captain Malcolm King Acheson, MC, MD was a doctor who specialised in public health, and his mother Dorothy Josephine née Rennoldson was the daughter of a Tyneside ship builder. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School, Brasenose College, Oxford (MA, DM, Fellow 1968, Honorary Fellow 1991). His elder brother, Roy Acheson, (also Merchiston and Brasenose) is Emeritus Professor of Community Medicine in the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Churchill College.
From 1957 until 1968 he worked at the University of Oxford, as Fellow of University College (1957-59), medical tutor in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Radcliffe Infirmary (1960), Director of the Oxford Record Linkage Study and Unit of Clinical Epidemeology (1962-68), and May Reader in Medicine (1965).
His association with the University of Southampton began in 1963 when he was appointed Professor of Clinical Epidemiology in the university and Honorary Consultant Physician at Royal South Hampshire Hospital. He held both positions until 1983. In 1968 he became the first Dean of the new Medical School at the University of Southampton, serving in that capacity until 1978. In 1977 he was Visiting Professor at McMaster University.
From 1979 until 1983 he was Director of the Medical Research Council Unit in Environmental Epidemiology. He then became Chief Medical Officer (1983-1991), serving the British government in the Department of Health, Department of Social Security, Department of Education and Science, and Home Office.
Acheson was President of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland (1979) and the British Medical Association (1996-97). He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), Royal College of Surgeons of England (FRCS), Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FRCOG), Faculty of Public Health Medicine (FFPHM), and Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FFOM). In 1986 he was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He held honorary doctorates from the University of Southampton (DM 1984), University of Newcastle (DSc 1984), Queen's University of Belfast (MD 1987), University of Aberdeen (LLD 1988), University of Nottingham (MD 1989), University of Birmingham (MD 1991), University of Salford (DSc 1991), and University of Ulster (DSc 1994).