Lives of the fellows

Robert Dick Gillespie

b.15 December 1897 d.30 October 1945
MB ChB Glasg(1920) DPM(1922) MD Glasg(1924) MRCP(1928) FRCP(1934)

R. D. Gillespie was a man of outstanding intellectual and literary ability, who made marked contributions during his short life to the advancement of psychiatry. The son of Campbell and Helenor Margaret (Beattie) Gillespie, he was born in Glasgow and educated at its Hutcheson’s Grammar School and University. At both he had a brilliant career. Following house posts at the Western Infirmary he was appointed assistant physician to the Glasgow Royal Asylum, Gartnavel, then under the direction of D. K. Henderson, and so began his interest in the perplexities of psychiatry, which he studied with the concentration of an excellent clinician at the psychiatric out-patients department of the Western Infirmary.

In 1924, as McCunn scholar in the physiology department of the University, he worked on the problem of fatigue: a study for his M.D. thesis which gained him a gold medal and aroused a special interest in social psychiatry. In 1925, as Henderson research scholar, he acted as assistant psychiatrist at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, an experience for which he was grateful as he was impressed by the vitality of the staff led by Professor Adolf Meyer.

On his return he joined the staff of the Cassel Hospital at Penshurst, under T. A. Ross, and at the early age of twenty-nine was elected physician and lecturer in psychological medicine at Guy’s Hospital Medical School. Very soon thereafter his opinion was sought by private patients, lawyers and expert committees; his colleagues were surprised that he could retain an ever fresh outlook although evidently overworked in his desire to establish and organise the York Clinic of the Hospital.

‘R. D.’ was a man of fine critical judgment, clearly expressed, and with a gift of inspiring a succession of enthusiastic students. Those who knew him in the R.A.F. Medical Service during the late War will not forget this tall, lean, dark man, with a fine head, a diffident posture, and an appealing smile that hid his own troubles, but not his deep desire to help his fellow-men.

In 1930 he married Audrey Margaret Mary Howard, who survived him with one daughter.

Richard R Trail

[Amer. J. Psychiat., 1946, 102, 572-3;, 1945, 2, 670-71 (p), 708, 787, 826; Guy's Hosp. Rep., 1946, 95, 1-6 (p); J. ment. Sci., 1946, 42, 284-5; J. nerv. ment. Dis., 1945, 102, 635-6; 1946, 103, 101-02; Lancet, 1945, 2, 616-17 (p), 655; Times, 1 Nov. 1945.]

(Volume V, page 149)

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