Lives of the fellows

Giuseppe Pampiglione

b.1 December 1919 d.23 February 1993
MD Rome(1942) MRCS LRCP Lond(1955) MRCP(1956) FRCP(1969)

Giuseppe, ‘Pep’, Pampiglione was born in Rome. His father Gugliemo Pampiglione, was an eminent radiologist and his mother Emma née Bassi, a concert pianist, was the daughter of a physician. He was educated in Italy and studied medicine at the University of Rome and the Ospedale S.Spirito. He graduated MD cum laude from the University in 1942 and obtained the diploma in neurology at the University of Bologna in 1948. He later spent some time studying in Paris. As a young doctor he edited an anti-fascist newspaper and following a student demonstration he was arrested by the secret police. While awaiting interrogation and listening to the screams of others under torture, he questioned the guard about his health, inferring that he looked ill and mentioning the possibility of cancer. He promised the man treatment if he himself were released - and the guard let him go.

Although Pep’s initial interests were in the pathology of the nervous system he soon became fascinated by the study of its electrical function, a rapidly developing field at that time. It was this interest that brought him to the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, on a British Council travelling scholarship. He later became senior registrar in the department of applied electrophysiology at the Hospital, 1948-51, and he was also a lecturer in clinical neurophysiology at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, from 1951-57. Sir Charles Symonds [Munk's Roll, Vol,VII, p.563], who befriended him and was anxious to keep him in this country, encouraged him to go to Guy’s Hospital as a student and he qualified in 1955. He had a strong sense of the ridiculous and found it amusing to be both a medical student and a university lecturer at the same time. He was elected to the membership of the College on the strength of his publications, even before he had taken his qualifying examinations, and in 1957 he was appointed consultant neurophysiologist to the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street before he had completed his pre-registration house jobs. It was at Great Ormond Street that his international reputation was made.

It was ‘Pep’ Pampiglione who founded the department of clinical neurophysiology at the Hospital for Sick Children. At that time relatively little was known about the development of cerebral function in children and he organized systematic EEG recordings on normal children at different ages. He made observations on rare diseases which are still widely quoted and took an interest in the effect on the brain of common childhood conditions such as measles and rubella, stressing the importance of recording the EEG at the bedside of the acutely ill child. He also investigated how nutritional deficiencies might affect brain development. His department soon became a leading international centre for paediatric neurophysiology and attracted young doctors worldwide.

Those who came to work with him did not always find him an easy master for he was uncompromising in his drive to establish professional standards in all aspects of his specialty. He had the highest standards for himself and expected them in others, but he gained their affection and gratitude. To those in trouble he was patient and eager to help, and he showed great loyalty to his staff and his colleagues. His love of children was apparent in his attitude to his young patients, he could soothe the frightened and the fractious with consummate ease and was totally available to them at all times.

He could often be stubborn and uncompromising in committee but it was his foresight and initiative which led to the formation of the Association of British Clinical Neurophysiologists, on which he served as president. He had many visiting professorships in Europe and North America and was a member of the French and American EEG societies. He was also vice-president of the International Federation of Neurophysiology, from 1957-1965, and a particularly active supporter of the British EEG Society, serving as its foreign secretary and president. He served two terms as president of comparative medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine and he was also a founder member of the Biological Engineering Society, which was formed to encourage cross-disciplinary links.

He married Sara Morgan, daughter of a solicitor, in 1955 and they had three children, two boys and a girl. He took a quiet pride in his children, one of whom also became a doctor. He loved music, the arts, good food and good wine, but especially good company. He and his wife particularly enjoyed organizing parties from which they derived great pleasure. He was an excellent host and a splendid raconteur. Sadly, he was unable to enjoy the retirement which he and his family had been planning as his final years were clouded by illness.

V C Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1993,306,1265;The Independent, 2 Mar 1993;The Guardian, 18 Mar 1993]

(Volume IX, page 403)

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