Lives of the fellows

Ralph Henry Crowley

b.11 February 1869 d.25 September 1953
MB Lond(1893) MD Lond(1895) MRCS LRCP(1893) MRCP(1898) FRCP(1930)

Ralph Crowley, the son of Alfred and Mary Catharine (Crafton) Crowley, was educated at Brighton Grammar School and St. Oliver’s Mount School, Scarborough. He studied medicine in Berlin after qualifying from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1893, and following house posts at his parent hospital and at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children became school medical officer of the education authority of Bradford and a member of the staff of the Bradford Royal Infirmary.

In 1909 he joined the medical staff of the Board of Education, where his colleagues were Sir George Newman, Alfred Eichholz and Janet Campbell, only two years after it had been decided to add a medical to the educational service by the Education (Administrative Provisions) Act (1907). There, with his strong bias towards preventive medicine and wide clinical experience, he helped to plan and create our school health service, and in 1925 became the senior officer in charge of the medical staff of the Board.

His active mind, ever open to new ideas, stimulated his colleagues and school medical officers throughout the country, so that investigations were made under his direction into such fields as eyesight, anthropometric standards and physical efficiency.

He was associated with many committees, probably the most important being the International Committee on Mental Deficiency on which he worked with Dame Ellen Pinsent of the Board of Control for five years from 1924. For years Crowley had been uneasy over the certification as ‘mental defectives’ of large numbers of children whom he considered as merely backward educationally, and it was due to him that doctors, teachers and the public realised that certification should be restricted to those whose mental condition warranted their control under the Mental Deficiency Acts.

He was an inspiring leader and a man imbued with the deepest sense of humanity and idealism, entirely devoid of self-seeking. In 1902 he married Miss Muriel Priestman, of Bradford. They had two daughters.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1953, 2, 833 (p); Lancet, 1953, 2, 785 (p); Times, 29 Sept. 1953.]

(Volume V, page 89)

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