Lives of the fellows

Goldwin William Howland

b.28 June 1875 d.11 July 1950
MB Toronto(1900) MRCP(1903) FRCP(C)(1930) FRCP(1932)

Goldwin William Howland was born at 7 Queen’s Park, Toronto, lived in Toronto virtually all his life, and died there suddenly on July 11th, 1950. He came of a famous American family. An ancestor, John Howland, was brought to America on the Mayflower, as an indentured servant, in 1620. On the way over he was washed overboard in a storm, but grasped a trailing topsail halyard and was pulled back on deck by a boat hook. He lived to become assistant governor of the Colony and to father a line of many famous descendants including John Howland, well-known professor of paediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, later President of the U.S.A.

Dr Howland’s grandfather, William Howland, came to Toronto from New York State in 1830 and was followed by other members of his family. He became a Canadian citizen in 1840 and had an illustrious career in business and politics. He served as a Minister in various Governments during the turbulent period 1862-7, was Postmaster General in Sir John Macdonald’s great coalition Government of 1864 and Finance Minister in 1866. He went to London as one of the Canadian delegates to discuss the terms of the British North American Act and was appointed Minister of Inland Revenue in the first Dominion Cabinet of 1867. In 1868, however, he accepted the position of lieutenant-governor of Ontario and dropped out of politics on completion of that term in 1873. He was knighted in 1879.

Sir William’s brother, Henry, was a founder and first vice-president of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, and later a founder and first president of the Imperial Bank of Canada. His son, Peleg, succeeded him as president of the Imperial Bank. Other relatives have played a prominent part in these two banks which were later united as the Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada.

Goldwin Howland’s father, William H. Howland, a prominent businessman in the insurance field, was also seriously interested in public affairs and public welfare. He was once Mayor of Toronto; he served with great distinction as chairman of the Board of the Toronto General Hospital; he founded an Industrial School for Wayward Adolescents and was chairman of the executive committee of the Prisoners Aid Association.

In 1873 he married Laura Chipman, of a well-known New Brunswick family. Goldwin, the second of the four children, graduated in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1900, taking the silver medal. He interned for one year at the Toronto General Hospital and then spent two years in London where he was associated with Gordon Holmes and came under the influence of Hughlings Jackson.

Returning to Toronto in 1904, after a further year’s graduate training in Germany, he was appointed to the staff of the faculty of medicine of the University of Toronto and of the department of medicine at the Toronto General Hospital, where he became the leading neurologist. He was retired in 1945, but continued to practise as a neurologist till his sudden death in 1950.

His deep interest in psychological medicine and neurology, based on broad study and continued reading, grew with his large experience. He became famous for his quick intuition and his wonderful comprehension of people and their disorders. He handled patients with a lightness of touch and quickness of mind, and he developed a remarkable instinct for making the right diagnosis when the evidence was scanty and far from clear.

His keen wit and imagination were associated with a great sense of the ludicrous, which led him to burst out with extremely funny quips. These sometimes obscured his fundamental sympathy and his seriousness, shyness and deep-seated sense of responsibliity. Sometimes it embarrassed his patients. More often, however, it led him to help greatly patients whom others had failed to reach. He was a clear, precise teacher who excelled in bedside teaching, and he played an important part in the development of occupational therapy in Canada.

The most notable of more than twenty papers from his pen, dealing chiefly with clinical subjects, was ‘Dysinsulism; convulsions and coma due to islet cell tumor of pancreas with operation and cure’ with W. R. Campbell and others (J. Amer. med. Ass.t 1929, 93, 674-9); it was the first reported instance in which cure of this syndrome followed surgical removal of the tumour.

In 1906 he married Margaret Carrington, daughter of William Henney Carrington, a civil engineer, of Chelsea, London. They had two children: Margaret, a business executive in Toronto, and William, a prominent lawyer and a Bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Richard R Trail

[Ctmad. J. occup. Ther., 1950,17, 67-70; Canad. med. Ass. J., 1950, 63, 313-14.]

(Volume V, page 203)

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