Lives of the fellows

George Geoffrey Evanson Smyth

b.27 February 1907 d.14 December 1989
MB ChB Manch(1931) MD(1938) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1947)

George Smyth was one of the British School of clinical neurologists. He was the son of a clergyman of Irish extraction, born in Briarfield, near Blackburn, and educated at Blackburn Grammar School and Manchester University, graduating with honours and distinctions in medicine and pathology, and with a number of prizes.

He held the usual junior appointments at Manchester Royal Infirmary and Crumpsall Hospital and obtained his membership of the College in 1935. Subsequently he studied with J G Greenfield [Munk's Roll Vol.V, p.164], E A Carmichael [Munk's Roll Vol.VII, p.91] and J Purdon Martin [Munk's Roll Vol.VIII, p.323] at the National Hospital in Queen Square where he was a house physician, then RMO, and finally Dickinson research scholar - obtaining his MD for work on the trigeminal nerve. After a short period at the Maudsley he went to Paris as a Rockefeller fellow in the autumn of 1938, working with J Bertrand and G Guillain.

He returned to England on the outbreak of war and served in the RAMC as neurologist to No 1 Mobile Neurosurgical Unit, with Hugh Cairns and Henderson, later Sir David [Munk's Roll Vol.V, p.188], but was taken prisoner in France in 1940. For the next four years he worked in POW hospitals; this experience affected him greatly and he was repatriated to England in 1944. He was mentioned in despatches and received a citation by the general commanding the US Army in Europe.

Back in the UK, he joined the Hospital for Head Injuries in Oxford with Ritchie Russell [Munk's Roll, Vol.VII, p.514]. Before and shortly after the war he published papers on lesions of the brainstem, thalamus and cerebellum. As a consequence of his war experience he wrote on some of the syndromes after head injuries, and on phantom limbs. There were also some War Office restricted publications on health and conditions in POW camps and after the war he was sent as an official investigator to see the wartime work of German neurology.

In 1946 he was appointed lecturer in neurology to Manchester University and elected a Fellow of the College in 1947. In that year he was also appointed consultant physician to Crumpsall Hospital, and in 1948 to the Manchester Royal Infirmary. He became physician in charge of neurology at Manchester Royal Infirmary in 1964, but retired in 1968 because of increasing deafness and went to live in his beloved Eire. His wife’s illness in 1978 was the reason for his return to England.

In retirement he did some locum consultant work as a neurologist, as well as some general practitioner work which he enjoyed. He was a member of the Association of British Neurologists and the Association of Physicians; secretary of the Manchester Medical Society 1947-49, and president of the section of medicine (RSM) 1962-63. He lectured at the Royal Society of Medicine, at the Association of British Neurologists and the Harveian Society.

George Smyth was a very cultured man, well versed in French literature, an authority on Samuel Johnson, and a keen fisherman. Above all, he was a kind physician who had, in his day, a large private practice. His first marriage in 1937 was to Florence (Paddy) Ryder, a hospital sister of Irish extraction, who died in 1984 leaving two daughters and one son, who is a general practitioner. His second marriage was to Anne Greenhalgh, who had been his secretary. She survived him, as did his children. His funeral service was held at Rostherne Parish Church, Cheshire, where he had been a regular worshipper. it was attended by many of his old colleagues and ex-juniors.

S Oleesky

[Brit.med.J., 1990,300,254-5]

(Volume IX, page 487)

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