Lives of the fellows

Robert Percy Smith

b.24 October 1853 d.4 June 1941
MB Lond(1879) MD MRCS FRCP(1890)

Percy Smith was born in Clapham, the eldest son of Robert and Anne Maynard Smith, and educated at private schools. A University scholar of St. Thomas’s Hospital, he distinguished himself by winning gold medals for medicine and obstetric medicine when he graduated as M.B. in 1879. After holding junior posts on the Hospital staff and a period of study in Vienna, he served as resident assistant physician from 1883 to 1885. Then he became assistant medical officer at Bethlem Royal Hospital, under Savage, and three years later succeeded his chief as superintendent. After ten years of office he resigned in order to enter private consulting practice. He had already, in 1895, begun to lecture on psychological medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, and in 1900 he was elected physician for mental diseases. He resigned both appointments in 1905, however, on receiving similar posts at St. Thomas’s Hospital, where he lectured until 1915 and was made consulting physician for mental diseases in 1919. In 1914 he was appointed an honorary consultant to military hospitals in London.

Smith edited Brain from 1901 to 1905, and was president of the Medico-Psychological Association in 1904. He acted as Examiner for the Universities of London and Leeds and for the Conjoint Board and in 1910, with others, urged the Royal College of Physicians to institute a diploma in psychiatry. His writings, apart from articles in medical compendia, were concerned mainly with the legal aspect of lunacy. The most valued, The Insane and the Law (1895), was written in collaboration with Mr. Justice Hawke and G. Pitt Lewis, Q.C. He himself was much in favour as a witness in court cases. He was an able clinician, from whom early promotion to an administrative post had removed any inclination for research. Precise, meticulous, exacting, he was, nevertheless, the possessor of a sense of humour and a transparent disinterestedness which, compensating for his lack of polish, accounted for his success in practice. Smith married Alice Mary, daughter of Rev. W. B. Marriott.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1941; B.M.J., 1941; Biog. Details left by Dr. Smith, in R.C.P. Library]

(Volume IV, page 344)

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