Lives of the fellows

Swithin Pinder Meadows

b.18 April 1902 d.1 May 1993
BSc Liverp(1924) MB ChB(1927) MB BS Lond(1927) MD(1930) MRCP(1930) FRCP(1941)

Born in Wigan, where his father was editor of The Wigan Observer, Swithin Meadows attended Wigan Grammar School from where he won a scholarship to Liverpool University. There he did his preclinical studies and obtained a BSc with first class honours in 1924; he won several prizes as a preclinical and clinical student. His clinical studies were undertaken at St Thomas’ Hospital in London so that in 1927 he ws able to qualify in triplicate - with the Conjoint and both Liverpool and London degrees in medicine and surgery. He got first class honours at Liverpool, where he did his initial house appointments. After working in London as a medical registrar and medical tutor at St Thomas’, he decided to specialize in neurology and became RMO at the National Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy, now the National Hospital, Queen Square. He completed his training at The London Hospital, now the Royal London Hospital, as first assistant in neurology to George Riddoch [Munk's Roll, Vol.IV, p.600] and Russell Brain, later Lord Brain, [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.60].

He was appointed to the staff of Westminster Hospital as a neurologist and as a general physician responsible for take duties but he devoted himself almost exclusively to neurology. He was subsequently appointed to the staff of the Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases and later to the National Hospital, Queen Square. He was also a physician to Moorfields Eye Hospital. In addition, he was for many years the neurologist to King Edward VII Hospital at Windsor and in his early years he served as a neurologist at St Albans and Mid-Herts Hospital. With his experience at the National Hospital and Moorfields, he became famous for his clinical expertise in the neurological manifestations of diseases of the eyes, in the optic pathways and the pituitary gland. He made important contributions to this field of neurology and published papers on temporal arteritis and intracranial aneurysms. Other contributions included work on spinal cord compression. In 1950-51 he was a Hunterian professor of the Royal College of Surgeons of London and he gave the Doyne lecture on childhood optic neuritis at the Ophthalmological Congress held at Oxford in 1969.

Although his reputation resulted in many honours and frequent requests to become involved in medical activities of a clinical and teaching nature he was not interested in administration and committees. He was honorary neurologist to several organizations, including British European Airways - before it amalgamated to become British Airways - and, in view of his father’s work, to the Newspaper Press Fund of which he later became vice-president. He was a member of the Association of British Neurologists and an active member of the neurological section of the Royal Society of Medicine, being its president for one session. He was visiting professor at the University of San Francisco in 1954 and an honorary member of the Australasian Association of Neurologists.

Renowned for his clinical acumen, common sense and clear thinking, Swithin was in considerable demand for neurological consultations. He worked very hard and at one time saw patients regularly on Saturday afternoons. He was a popular undergraduate teacher, liked by both colleagues and patients, and always ready to give advice which was invariably sensible and helpful. Modest and never pompous, he was intellectually honest whether dealing with a patient, a nurse, a student or a senior colleague. He continued in private practice after he retired from the NHS at the age of 65. Outside medicine he enjoyed travel, reading and playing the piano. He married Anne née Noble m 1934 and they had four children, two sons and two daughters. He was devoted to his wife and family; one son followed his father into neurology and is also a Fellow of the College.

F B Gibberd

[Brit.med.J., 1993,306,1608; Times, 8 May 1993;The Independent, 25 May 1993]

(Volume IX, page 358)

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