Great Names of the Past

In 1889 Professor Thomas McDowell, superintendent at Morpeth asylum, took up the appointment of Lecturer in Psychological Medicine at Newcastle University and in 1909 became the first Professor of Psychological Medicine holding this post until 1918. The post was subsequently held by Professor James Middlemas from 1918-1922.

Sir David Drummond

Sir David Drummond

Sir David Drummond (1852-1932) was appointed Pathologist at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1878, and held posts of Lecturer in Physiology and Professor of the Principles and Practice of Medicine (1911-1924). In 1883 Drummond published the authoritative book on Diseases of the Brain and Spinal Cord. Although he never worked in a mental hospital he had great interest in abnormal mental states, especially if there was an organic basis for the mental breakdown. As a result he was one of the two medical members of the Royal Commission (1924-26) on Lunacy and Mental Disorder which recommended outpatient clinics be opened and aftercare services developed to enable community treatment.

Professor Frederick Nattrass

Professor Frederick Nattrass (1891-1979) greatly influenced the foundations of neurology in the early 20th. He graduated from Newcastle in 1914, began working at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1918, and was awarded the gold medal for his M.D. thesis in 1920. He joined the staff of the RVI in 1921, becoming a consultant neurologist (1935-41) and the first full time Professor of Medicine (1941-1956). During his career Nattrass worked on various disorders including myasthenia gravis, muscular dystrophy, and recurrent polyneuritis (sometimes referred to as ‘Maladie de Nattrass’) and authored the popular textbook The Commoner Nervous Diseases (1931). In 1932 he and his Newcastle colleague George Hall (1879-1955) were among the 16 founding members of the Association of British Neurologists.

Alfred Pattison

Alfred Pattison (1903-1940) first established Neurosurgery in Newcastle. He graduated from Newcastle in 1929 and undertook training with Ferdinand Sauerbruch in Berlin. After taking FRCS in 1931 he had a Rutherford Morison Travelling Scholarship to spend a year as surgical assistant to Harvey Cushing at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, USA. On returning to Newcastle Pattison was first surgical registrar and then consulting neurological surgeon to Newcastle General Hospital where he established a neurosurgical unit serving NE England. He had a short but notable career. In 1935 he was the first to implant radon-222 seeds for interstitial radiotherapy of pituitary basophilism (Cushing’s Disease) and in 1937 held a Hunterian Professorship of the Royal College of Surgeons.

George Rowbotham

George Rowbotham

George Rowbotham (1899-1975) took up a post as consultant neurosurgeon at Newcastle shortly before Alfred Pattison’s untimely death. He remained in Newcastle until retiring in 1964, during which time he built up a world-renown neurosurgical department, specialising in head injuries, and established the Regional Neurosciences Centre (1962). His department was first to use EEG in Newcastle.
Rowbotham’s book Acute Injuries of the Head (1942) ran to five editions, and his later book Pictorial Introduction to Neurological Surgery (1953) with Douglas Hammersley was an important training manual. He is particularly noted for the introduction of hypothermia in the treatment of head injuries and for the use of cryosurgery in intracranial procedures.

Professor Alexander Kennedy

Professor Alexander Kennedy (1909-1960) introduced Psychiatry research to Newcastle and was the University’s first full time Professor of Psychological Medicine (1947-55). Professor Kennedy established one of the first Academic Departments of Psychiatry in the country. Long before liaison psychiatry became fashionable he established a consultation service to the wards which was second to none. During his time at Newcastle Kennedy published articles on organic reaction types and also wrote several radio plays based on his experience as a psychiatrist during the war under the pseudonym Kenneth Alexander.

Professor Henry Miller

Professor Henry Miller (1913-1976) graduated in medicine from Newcastle in 1937 and after brief periods at John Hopkins, Baltimore, and Great Ormond Street, London, was appointed as neurological registrar under Professor Frederick Nattrass. This was followed by a period in the RAF, before returning to a consultant post in 1947. As associate physician Miller provided neurological assessment of mental health patients. He was critical of psychoanalysis and expressed concerns about the separation of psychiatry from medicine and physical symptoms, often referring to psychiatry as ‘neurology without physical signs’. In 1956 he formed a neurology department at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and developed research interests in demyelinating diseases, especially multiple sclerosis, establisheing the Demyelinating Diseases Unit in 1961. Miller held posts of Reader in Neurology (1961-64), Professor of Medicine (Neurology) (1964-68), Dean of Medicine (1966-68) and Vice Chancellor (1968-76).

Professor Sir Bernard Tomlinson CBE

Professor Sir Bernard Tomlinson CBE

Professor Sir Bernard Tomlinson CBE was one of the most distinguished neuropathologists of his generation and conducted research on Alzheimer’s disease in collaboration with Martin Roth, Garry Blessed, Robert Perry and Elaine Perry. He developed quantitative measures of a wide range of indices of cerebral pathology which could be related to assessments of cognitive function near to death. His work correlated the histological changes in the brains of demented subjects and the degree of clinical abnormality, and quantified brain changes that occur in normal aged people. He was appointed as senior registrar in pathology at Newcastle General Hospital in 1949. He subsequently became consultant pathologist (1950-53) and senior consultant pathologist (1953-82), before becoming Director of the Department of Pathology in 1955. He was honorary senior lecturer in pathology (1960-71) and honorary professor (1972-85).

John Walton

Professor John Walton

Professor John Walton (later Lord Walton of Detchant, pictured) was arguably the most renowned British neurologist of his generation. Walton arrived at Medical School in Newcastle in 1941, later undertaking his MD thesis on subarachnoid haemorrhage. He established an extensive research programme in neuromuscular disorders, especially muscular dystrophy, and is noted for introducing electromyographic recording to the study of neurological disorders in Newcastle. His phenotypic classification of muscle disease laid the foundation for later studies in molecular genetics. In 1979 he received a knighthood for his services to medicine and was raised to the Lords in 1989.

Professor Walton was appointed to the Department of Neurology in Newcastle in 1951. During 1951-56 he was research assistant to Professor Frederick Nattrass with whom he established a classification of muscular dystrophies. He later became First Assistant in Professor Henry Miller’s new Department of Neurology (1956-8), Consultant Neurologist (1958-68), Professor of Neurology (1968-1983), and Dean of Medicine (1971-1981).

Sydney Brandon

Sydney Brandon

Sydney Brandon (1927-2001) established paediatric psychiatry research in Newcastle in 1955. He graduated in medicine from Newcastle in 1954 and was initially interested in paediatrics, but his involvement with the behaviour of disturbed children led him into psychiatry. During his time in Newcastle Brandon published on eating disorders in the young, amphetamine addictions, and community treatment programmes. He was appointed Nuffield research assistant in child health at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (1955-1959) before becoming consultant. From 1963-1964 he worked as a research fellow at Columbia University, New York, before returning to a lectureship in psychiatry at Newcastle (1964-1966) and subsequently Nuffield Foundation Fellow in Psychiatry (senior lecturer) (1966-1969).

Gordon Gryspeerdt

Gordon Gryspeerdt

Gordon Gryspeerdt (1913-1993) founded the Department of Neuroradiology in Newcastle, which would become part of the Regional Neurosciences Centre. When it opened in 1962 it was one of the best, if not the best, neuroradiology facility in the country. Gryspeerdt developed myelographic techniques which became standard practice throughout the world and was a founder member of the European Society for Neuroradiologists. He remained working until 1978.

Sir Martin Roth FRS

Professor Sir Martin Roth FRS

Professor Sir Martin Roth FRS (1917-2006) was the most respected and successful psychiatrist of his generation. Roth established Newcastle as one of the leading centres of psychiatric clinical research in Britain and founded two main areas of research which remain to this day: psychogeriatrics and the phenotypic characterisation of affective disorders. Many of the major concepts in psychogeriatrics, especially in dementia, were conceived in Newcastle. Roth made major contributions in distinguishing subtypes of mental illness arising in late life, including elucidating the pathological distinctness of the clinical syndromes of cerebrovascular dementia caused by strokes and Alzheimer’s disease arising from abnormal protein formations in the brain. He conducted important clinico-pathological studies with Bernard Tomlinson and Garry Blessed (consultant psychogeriatrician 1966-1988), devising the first scales for measuring dementia and demonstrating the quantitative relationship between cognitive levels and extent of brain damage, including expression of Alzheimer’s abnormal proteins. With others Roth specified diagnostic criteria for syndromes of depression. For his scientific achievements in psychiatry Roth became one of only three psychiatrists to be appointed FRS (the first being Sigmund Freud).

John (‘Hank’) Hankinson

Professor John (‘Hank’) Hankinson

Professor John (‘Hank’) Hankinson (1919-2007) was Newcastle’s first Professor of Neurosurgery (1972-84). Having learned stereotaxic surgery from the pioneers Luis Amador (Chicago) and Lars Leksell (Karolinska Institute, Sweden), Hankinson’s principal interest was in functional neurosurgery, especially for the relief of rigidity and tremor in Parkinson’s disease. During the 1970s Hankinson collaborated with Alan McComas and Peter Wilson to make real time electrophysiological recordings using steel electrodes from the human brain in conscious patients to assist the functional mapping of the brain prior to surgery. He also developed the ventricular puncture method for relief of intracranial pressure.

Professor Ephraim (‘EJ’) Field

Professor Ephraim (‘EJ’) Field (1915-2002) was a graduate of Newcastle (1938) and become Professor of Experimental Neuropathology in 1967. Professor Field directed Newcastle’s Demyelinating Disease Unit, which was acknowledged to be one of the major centres in the world for research into multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases like scrapie. In his 12 years as Director of the Unit, Field was prolific publishing many high profile papers, including 12 letters to Nature and 34 letters to The Lancet.

Israel (‘Issy’) Kolvin

Professor Israel (‘Issy’) Kolvin

Professor Israel (‘Issy’) Kolvin (1929-2002) was a pioneer in the movement of child and adolescent psychiatry from being dominated by psychoanalytic theories to empirical research investigating the nature, extent, and causes of emotional and behavioural disorders. He was the consultant in charge of the Nuffield Psychology and Psychiatry Unit, which he turned into one of the world’s foremost university departments of child and adolescent psychiatry. In 1981 Kolvin published his influential book, Help Starts Here. The Maladjusted Child in the Ordinary School. The book reported the first controlled trial of psychological treatment of children in schools, and proved that treatment was effective in ameliorating emotional and behavioural difficulties.

Professor Robert Perry

Professor Robert Perry was the Clinical Professor of Neuropathology between 1999-2009 and developed diverse collections of human brain tissue intended for histological and histochemical analysis into a resource for more detailed neurochemistry. The brain bank (now called the brain tissue resource) is one of the world’s most well characterised brain banks on neurodegenerative diseases and has led to many discoveries in relation to neurodegenerative diseases.

Professor Ben Burns FRS

Professor Ben Burns FRS (1915-2001) was a distinguished neurophysiologist who came to Newcastle in 1980 and continued his work on learning and synaptic plasticity.

Professor Jim Edwardson

Professor Jim Edwardson (1979-present) conducted research on the role of metal ions in brain pathologies, neurochemical changes in age-related disorders and depression, and peptides as neuromodulators. Edwardson was founding Director (1994-2006) of the Institute of Ageing and Health which has become a world-leading centre for research in age-related disorders.

Return to Neuro in Newcastle