Lives of the fellows

Ronald Melville Norman

b.2 November 1904 d.20 August 1968
MB ChB Bristol(1930) MD(1932) DPM(1934) MRCP(1952) FRCP(1961)

Ronald Norman was born at Weston-Super-Mare, the second son of Edwin Norman, a pharmaceutical chemist, and Alice Letitia, née Burford. He was educated at Rydal Mount School, Colwyn Bay, and Bristol University. His first appointment (1930) was at Stoke Park Colony where, at the suggestion of the superintendent, Dr. R.J.A. Berry, FRSE (one time professor of anatomy at Melbourne) he set up a neuropathological laboratory; there he would perfect his techniques till late in the evenings. In 1942 he was appointed deputy superintendent and in the same year was elected to membership of the Association of British Neurologists. In 1946 he succeeded Dr. R.M. Bates as superintendent and served as clinical teacher in mental deficiency and as lecturer in neuropathology at Bristol University.

In 1953 a special research post was created for him (as director of the Burden Neuropathological Laboratory, Frenchay Hospital) to allow him to continue unimpeded the studies for which he had gained renown; and in 1960 he spent six months at the National Institute for Nervous Diseases and Blindness as a visiting consultant. His writings were impressive for their quality, their conciseness and for the persistence with which he pursued an hypothesis. A critical mind, sound judgement and his clinical background served further to make him a sought-after member of editorial boards. He was a pioneer in paediatric neuropathology, and will be remembered especially for his work on neonatal asphyxia. His section on malformations in Greenfield's Neuropathology (the second edition of which he edited) is regarded as a classic. He was president of the British Neuropathological Society, 1960-2.

He worked in a reconditioned Nissen hut with very little equipment and help. He claimed not to want visitors but in fact he always welcomed them and gave help willingly. He was retiring by nature but when invited to speak at meetings he never failed to make a useful contribution. His voice was soft and he was always composed. In appearance he was stocky and bucolic, but was apt to be formal except in the company of close friends, when his wit and quiet gaiety quickly became apparent. He loved to travel, especially in Mediterranean countries, and his many interests included music, art, architecture and the countryside. He also wrote a little poetry. He was well-known in the south west as a chess player.

In 1933 he married Margaret Adelaide, daughter of Professor Berry, and they had two sons and one daughter.

William McMenemey

[Brit.med.J., 1968, 2, 622; Lancet, 1968, 2, 580; Times, 26 Aug 1968; Western Daily Press, 22 Aug 1968; Jancar,J., ‘Sixty Years of Stoke Park Hospital’, Bristol Med. Chir. J., 1969, 77-96]

(Volume VI, page 361)

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