Lives of the fellows

John Bernard Stanton

b.14 October 1917 d.23 March 1970
BA Cantab(1939) MB BChir(1942) MRCP(1947) DPM(1952) FRCPE(1961) FRCP(1965)

John Stanton was born at Camberwell, the son of Bernard Mackenzie Stanton, a civil servant in the Foreign Office, and was educated at St. Paul’s School (where he held junior and senior Foundation Scholarships and a Leaving Exhibition), St. John’s College, Cambridge (Major Entrance Scholar and Wright’s Prizeman), and the London Hospital, where he was Price Entrance Scholar and took clinical prizes in medicine and paediatrics.

After qualifying in 1942 he chose to serve in the Merchant Navy until 1946. He was almost continuously at sea, from the Arctic to the Tropics, and dealt with the survivors of shipwreck, emigrants and civilian evacuees, besides ordinary wartime medicine and surgery. A few months of postgraduate study were followed by a year as resident medical officer at the Maida Vale Hospital (1947). A first spell of six months in psychiatry (clinical assistant, London Hospital), alternated with three years in clinical neurology as registrar at Maida Vale (1948-49), and as senior registrar at the London Hospital (1949-51). Although highly regarded by his chief (Russell Brain), the post war "bulge" in clinicians in training, and the shortage of consultancies in neurology made him change course back to psychiatry. In 1951 he was appointed senior registrar in psychiatry at Newcastle upon Tyne by Alexander Kennedy (despite experience of psychiatry of only six months in 1948). Kennedy was hoping to expand organic psychiatry by introducing the older continental breed of neuropsychiatrist to Britain.

Stanton enjoyed his Novocastrian period, which meant close cooperation with Leslie Kiloh (another ex-neurologist from Kings’ College Hospital who did stay in psychiatry, albeit the author of a standard text on electroencephalography) and particularly with Henry Miller, the co-author of a number of papers, and with (Sir) John Walton.

But by 1953 he was applying for a lectureship in neurology at Edinburgh, and in 1954 succeeded in being appointed neurologist at the Northern General Hospital in Edinburgh, where he continued to work until his death. He had promised Kennedy to remain psychiatrically orientated as a neurologist, and acted as neurologist to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for 12 years. Although Kennedy himself succeeded Sir David Henderson for a few years as Professor of Psychiatry at Edinburgh, neuropsychiatry as a specialty did not take off: indeed the two specialties drifted further apart. Stanton and Frank Fish founded a dining club (The Clouston), consisting of an equal mixture of psychiatrists and other doctors to counter this trend. The Club survived its begetters.

During his sixteen years as consultant Stanton was highly regarded by his colleagues and patients, and continued to teach and practise, despite the trials of his long terminal illness, till very near the end. He contributed some excellent chapters to well known Edinburgh textbooks, and published (with J.P. Laidlaw, 1966), a monograph on the Electroencephalogram in Clinical Practice. His most valuable work was probably the review (with Henry Miller and J.L. Gibbons) of Parainfectious Encephalomyelitis (1956). Latterly he became interested in the aphasias, as became a pupil of Russel Brain, and a Member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

A rather shy man, the first impression was one of gravitas which earned him the nickname of the Bishop when he was still a registrar. However, he really enjoyed company, and was an excellent host, who could hold forth with great authority on books, music, or demonology. He was on the Members’ Committee of the London College, and served the Edinburgh College as Secretary from 1963 to 1967.

A veneer of snuff-taking and a Bentley car was not off-putting: he had great depth of personality, and his stoical attitudes make it hard to believe that he was only 52 when he died (at Edinburgh).

In 1947 he married Jean, daughter of John G.C. Cooke, a director of Lewis’s Ltd., of Heswall in Cheshire: they had a daughter and a son.

EH Jellinek

[, 1970, 2, 118; Lancet, 1970, 1, 725]

(Volume VI, page 413)

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