Lives of the fellows

Helen Easdale Dimsdale

b.2 July 1907 d.20 April 1977
MRCS LRCP(1933) MB BChir Cantab(1937) MRCP(1939) MA MD(1949) FRCP(1949)

Helen Dimsdale was born at Stretford, the daughter of John Harold Brown, chairman of textile and steel companies, and his wife Ellen Carse, whose father was William Easdale, a linen manufacturer and property owner in Belfast. She was a descendant of the famous dissenting divine, Dr John Brown of Bedford, a first cousin of Sir Geoffrey Keynes and a niece of Sir Walter Langdon Brown. Educated at Culcheth Hall and Hayes Court, she proceeded to Girton College, Cambridge, where she was placed in the first class in the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1929. After this she went to University College Hospital for clinical studies, qualifying with the Conjoint diploma in 1933 and passing her MB BChir in 1939. House appointments at Windsor, University College Hospital and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital followed. She was medical registrar at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson from 1938 to 1939, when she obtained the membership.

Helen pursued a training in neurology and neuropathology at Maida Vale, the London, and Chase Farm Hospitals from 1941 to 1946. She served the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital as a physician from 1946 to 1952. She was appointed physician at Maida Vale in 1947 and at the Royal Free Hospital in 1950; she continued thus until ill-health brought about her premature retirement in 1967. Elected to the fellowship of the college in 1949, she served on council from 1961 to 1963.

Helen Dimsdale was medical tutor at the Royal Free from 1951 to 1954, and a recognised teacher both there and at the Institute of Neurology. She published a number of useful papers, and examined in neurology for the Diploma of Psychological Medicine at Durham and for the FRCS in medical ophthalmology.

She was the first woman to be appointed to the consultant staff at Maida Vale Hospital and indeed to a clinical neurological consultancy in Britain. A careful, conscientious clinician, she had an alert and enquiring mind. Helen Dimsdale also possessed administrative ability, serving as chairman of the planning committee for the new Royal Free Hospital in the 1950’s and as treasurer of the Association of British Neurologists from 1961 to 1966. Her later years on the staff were clouded by chronic ill-health, which prevented her from scaling the heights she might have expected to conquer.

Helen was an active sportswoman in her younger days; she played tennis for her college and lacrosse for Southern Schools and was also a keen sailor. In 1930 she married Wilfrid Dimsdale, son of a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, and descendant of Dr Dimsdale, who vaccinated the Empress Catherine of Russia and was rewarded with a barony. They had one son, an economist and fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford.

RA Henson

[Lancet, 1977, 1, 1018; Times, 23 Apr 1977]

(Volume VII, page 155)

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