Lives of the fellows

Arthur (Sir) Newsholme

b.10 February 1857 d.17 May 1943
KCB(1917) CB(1912) MD Lond MRCS LSA FRCP(1898)

Arthur Newsholme was born at Haworth in Yorkshire, the fourth son of Robert Newsholme, who had been churchwarden to the Rev. Patrick Bronte. His mother was left a widow early, and he won his way through grammar school by means of scholarships. From an apprenticeship with a general practitioner in Bradford, he entered St. Thomas’s Hospital in time to hear the last lecture delivered by Sir John Simon. He passed his examinations brilliantly, qualifying in 1879, and then obtained house posts in his own Hospital, the Tottenham Training Hospital and the Evelina Hospital for Children, and served as physician to the City Dispensary. In 1881 he began general practice in Clapham, and two years later was appointed part-time medical officer of health for the borough. In 1888 he moved to Brighton to become its first full-time medical officer of health. There, one of his achievements was the introduction of the voluntary notification and early administrative control of tuberculosis. He also initiated research into the aetiology of rheumatic fever, diphtheria and the summer diarrhoea of infants, and demonstrated that shellfish might act as carriers of the typhoid bacillus — thereby arousing the hostility of powerful vested interests. He wrote extensively on the principles of the vital statistics and related matters such as the fallacies of inference and observation.

In 1909, at John Burns’s invitation, Newsholme became principal medical officer to the Local Government Board. During his ten years of office, which bore the impact of the National Health Insurance Act, the first World War and the world-wide influenza epidemic, he not only did much to reconcile methods of the local and central administration but established maternity and child welfare schemes, tuberculosis medical services, and the special service for venereal diseases. He sat in the General Medical Council as a Crown nominee from 1910 to 1919 and was created C.B. in 1912 and K.C.B. in 1917. In the latter year he was awarded the Bisset Hawkins Medal by the Royal College of Physicians, where previously, in 1895, he had delivered the Milroy Lectures. He examined for the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London.

After retiring in 1919, Newsholme visited the United States to attend conferences on child welfare and to inaugurate the new school of public health at Johns Hopkins University, where he gave a series of lectures on public health. In the years following he visited several European countries, including Russia. His many writings included two autobiographical works, Fifty Years in Public Health (1935), and The Last Thirty Years in Public Health (1936). Of Newsholme’s achievement it may be said that, under his direction, the older emphasis on sanitation was replaced by a wider emphasis on preventive medicine. He himself was an eminently practical man, who would spare no effort to overcome obstruction. He married in 1881 Sara Mansford, but had no children. He died at Worthing, his home in his retirement.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1943; B.M.J., 1943]

(Volume IV, page 404)

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