Lives of the fellows

Charles Bland Radcliffe

b.2 June 1822 d.18 June 1889
MB Lond(1845) MD FRCP(1858)

Charles Radcliffe was born at Brigg, Lincolnshire, the eldest son of Charles Radcliffe, a Wesleyan minister. His father, a man of great scholarship, gave him his early education, to such effect that he could read Latin "tolerably well" at the age of seven. He then attended Batley Grammar School, before being apprenticed to a general practitioner in Wortley. He studied at Leeds School of Medicine and at London and Paris and, when he graduated as M.B. in 1845, was said to be the first provincial student to be awarded a gold medal by London University. Although financial success was long in coming, his promise was recognised by his appointment as assistant physician to the Westminster Hospital in 1853 and as full physician four years later; he lectured on botany and materia medica, and was given consulting rank in 1873. He was an early supporter of the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic, being one of its physicians from 1863 till his death. At the Royal College of Physicians he delivered the Goulstonian Lectures in 1860 and the Croonian Lectures in 1873, and served as Censor.

Radcliffe became deeply engrossed in physiological problems, particularly in those of nervous and muscular activity. Although many of his theories did not survive, he was one of the first to adumbrate an electrical factor in the action of cardiac and other muscles, and, in spite of his preference for abstract theory to practical experiment, his enthusiasm and originality of approach inspired many younger men who were destined to establish the new physiology on sure foundations. Never a pure materialist, he delighted in music and architecture and read deeply in theology. A devout, if unorthodox, Christian, he was a friend of Frederick Denison Maurice; in the words of Canon Page-Roberts, "Plato was his teacher, Aquinas his study, and Maurice his master". Radcliffe married in 1851 but had no children. J. N. Radcliffe, the epidemiologist, was his younger brother. He died in London.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1889; B.M.J., 1889; D.N.B., xlvii, 121]

(Volume IV, page 95)

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