Lives of the fellows

Basil Gerald Parsons-Smith

b.19 November 1911 d.21 April 1995
OBE(1945) BA Cantab(1933) MRCS LRCP(1936) MRCP(1939) MA(1940) MB BChir(1947) MD(1949) FRCP(1955)

Gerald Parsons-Smith was senior physician and physician-in-charge of the department of neurology at the Charing Cross Hospital. His father, Basil Thomas Parsons-Smith [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.320] was a well known physician with an interest in cardiology and his maternal grandfather, Sir David Burnett, was Lord Mayor of London from 1912 to 1913.

Gerald Parsons-Smith’s education began at Bowden House, Seaford, after which he went on to Harrow. Following his father’s profession he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and then won an exhibition scholarship to St George’s Hospital where he qualified in 1936, being awarded the Brackenbury prize. After working successfully as house surgeon, house physician and medical registrar, he served as a medical officer in the RAF for the duration of the Second World War, commanding the RAF Hospital in Alexandria during the battle of El Alamein. He later served in Libya and Palestine. Mentioned in despatches twice, he was appointed OBE (military) in 1945, leaving the service with the rank of squadron leader and becoming president of his local RAF association.

He returned after the war to St George’s Hospital where he was asked by Denis Williams [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.587] to be senior registrar in the department of neurology. His MD thesis in 1949 was on electo-encephalography. He was appointed consultant neurologist to the West London Hospital, which had one of the earliest EEG units. This was followed by consultant appointments to the Graylingwell Hospital in Chichester, the West End Hospital for Neurology, the Western Ophthalmic Hospital, the Florence Nightingale Hospital, the Atkinson Morley Hospital and the EEG department at the Middlesex Hospital. All these appointments were in addition to his private practice.

At the old Charing Cross Hospital (opposite Charing Cross station) there was no separate department of neurology but he played an active part in the planning of the department for the new Charing Cross Hospital which opened in Fulham in 1972. He thus helped to lay the foundations of one of the major departments of neurology in the UK with 160 collaborating neuroscientists.

In 1976 he was co-organizer of the Sir Gordon Holmes [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.195] Centenary and wrote a biographical chapter on the great neurologist.

Before his retirement, to the surprise of colleagues and family, he took a leading acting role in Hospital 1922, an historical reconstruction of the Charing Cross hospital which formed a part of the BBC Horizon series.

Devoted to his home in Bletchingley, Surrey, he enjoyed his garden and working in the grounds of his wife, Aurea’s, pony stud, mowing the lawns, walking the dogs and driving his tractor until his death. His prescription for health and longevity was enough daily exercise to "bring on a sweat".

F Clifford Rose

[The Times, 29 Apr 1995; The Daily Telegraph, 2 May 1995]

(Volume X, page 377)

<< Back to List