Lives of the fellows

Gerald Anthony Neligan

b.3 February 1918 d.1 June 1976
BM BCh Oxon(1942) MRCP(1947) DM(1948) FRCP(1967)

Gerald Neligan, reader in child health in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, was born in Teheran, Persia. His father, Anthony Richard Neligan, was doctor to the British Legation and his mother, Kate Mary Leigh, was the daughter of Gerald Leigh Spencer, a clerk in Holy Orders. Gerald was educated in England, at Hazelhurst, Marlborough, and St John’s College, Oxford University, where he read medicine, having entered with a scholarship in classics. He was awarded the John Radcliffe prize for clinical studies, graduating in 1942. After serving as house physician at the Radcliffe Infirmary, he joined the RAMC and saw active service in Europe.

On demobilization he returned to Oxford and worked first as house physician to LJ Witts and then as registrar to Victoria Smallpiece. In 1948 he was appointed first assistant to Sir James Spence, at Newcastle, where his abilities were soon recognized, and he was promoted to senior lecturer in the University. In 1967 he was awarded a personal readership in recognition of his important contributions to research and teaching. He remained at the University for the rest of his life.

Gerald Neligan’s interests and expertise in paediatrics were wide, and his DM thesis on pyogenic osteitis in childhood was published as a chapter in Recent Advances in Paediatrics, second edition (1959). His paper on hypoglycaemia appeared in the same book, third edition (1965). He also wrote important papers on undergraduate and postgraduate training, including a study of the work of regional consultant paediatricians. He was, however, best known for neonatal medicine. He was involved in virtually all aspects of new born medicine which were important and progressive, but was devastatingly critical of anything that was trivial, illogical, or inhuman.

To a series of clinical problems he brought the same approach: he saw their importance, worked out logical, simple, and new ways of recognizing and treating them, and then strove to devise practical ways of prevention. It was as a result of his efforts that the Newcastle Study of Child Development was carried out. Through it, in particular, he successfully sought to relate perinatal events to subsequent life and progress, and demonstrated the nature and importance of social disadvantage.

Gerald used every activity as an occasion for teaching — of students, midwives, residents, and distinguished visitors alike. To have been broken in at the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital by Gerald was a unique experience, when both his boyish enthusiasm and his fine techniques were shared. His abilities were recognized well beyond Newcastle. He was external examiner at several universities, was a visiting professor at Boston, Khartoum and Athens, and served on the council and academic board of the British Paediatric Association.

In 1942 he married Mary Constance Windsor, daughter of Hugh Windsor Bell, a medical practitioner. They had six children. His interests outside medicine were in gardening and birdwatching, and he was happiest when at home with his family and friends.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
Valérie Luniewska

[Lancet, 1976, 2, 158]

(Volume VII, page 425)

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