PROF Alison Brading, a leading figure in pharmacology, has died at the age of 71.

She was a pioneer in the field of smooth muscle research, head of the Oxford Continence Group and the first non-clinician to be awarded the St Peter’s Medal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons.

Born in Bexhill in 1939, she was offered a place to read medicine at Oxford. But before she could take the place, she caught polio during a visit to Nigeria. It left her unable to enrol as a medical student and needed crutches for the rest of her life.

She instead obtained a first class degree in zoology at Bristol University and went on to complete her PhD, before moving to Oxford in 1965 to work in the Department of Pharmacology.

She was appointed fellow and tutor in physiology at Lady Margaret Hall in 1968, lecturer in pharmacology in 1972 and a professor in 1996.

After retiring in 2005, she remained active as a visiting scholar. Her work on incontinence and bladder instability was published in more than 100 papers in leading journals. And her contributions to urology were recognised in 2006, when she was the first non-clinician to be awarded the St Peter’s Medal.

Prof Brading, described by friends as outgoing, cheerful and optimistic, avoided using a wheelchair for as long as possible and lived on her own in a small cottage outside Oxford.

In 2001 she became involved in a long planning battle after replacing the wooden front door on her listed cottage in Thrupp, near Kidlington, because she struggled to open it when it swelled in the rain. Council officers objected to the new UPVC door, sparking a six-year planning battle during which she said she was prepared to go to jail. The row ended eventually in a compromise over a new door.

In 2008, she was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of the British Pharmacological Society, and Honorary Membership of the Physiological Society.

Colleague Garry Brown said: “For generations of students in medicine, physiology and psychology, Alison was the key to the door to the life sciences.

“She awakened in the students a scientific curiosity and instilled a rigour of analysis which they would take with them into their own careers, whatever course they followed.”

A memorial celebration will be held at Lady Margaret Hall on June 4.