Michael Briggs was a British born biochemist who worked at Deakin University in Australia and was regarded as an expert on assessing the safety of oral contraceptives. He was a WHO adviser on the contraceptive pill and its risks especially on biochemical changes that might be used to predict risk. In around 1983, he was accused of research fraud by the chair of the ethics committee at Deakin, Dr Jim Rossiter. Briggs initially replied that these accusations were about trivial inconsistencies and memory lapses but in August 1985 he resigned his position and moved to Spain. He admitted to a Sunday Times journalist (Brian Deer) in an interview published in 1986 that he had committed research fraud and fabricated data. He died in Spain from liver failure shortly after this interview at the age of 51. (Bibliography and available links at the end.)
A disconcerting historical account that highlights again that research superstars can be research cheats.
In 1977 Briggs became the first Professor of Human Biology and the inaugural head of the science school at the newly formed Deakin University in Geelong in the Australian state of Victoria. Deakin University had its first intake of students in 1977. By the time of his appointment to this post, Briggs had gained an international reputation as an expert on the safety of oral contraceptives particularly about the biochemical markers that might be used to predict the long term safety of these pills and was an adviser to the World Health Organisation about these changes in blood biochemistry. His wife Maxine (nee Staniford) was medically qualified and was a co-author on many of his clinical papers and articles. When I did a literature search for papers by Maxine Staniford, I found just one published before she started publishing with her husband-to-be and that was a review article which she co-authored in the British Journal of Clinical Practice in June 1967 relating to a particular oral contraceptive. I could find no article relating to oral contraceptives published by Briggs before 1969 and indeed his publication topics prior to this time are extremely diverse, eclectic even, in their subject matter e.g. the chemical composition of fossils and meteorites, effects of feeding urea to cattle, composition measurements on insects, visual pigments of crabs, olfaction (sense of smell), composition of lake water, side effects of a compound called dimethyl sulphoxide etc. So it is possible that his new wife’s interest and expertise in oral contraceptives helped to focus him on oral contraceptives as the future area of his research.