Lives of the fellows

Alfred Frank Tredgold

b.5 November 1870 d.17 September 1952
TD(1918) MB ChB Durh(1899) MD Durh(1919) MRCS LRCP(1899) FRSE(1914) MRCP(1921) FRCP(1929)

Alfred Frank Treadgold was born in Derby, the son of Joseph Tredgold, a builder’s foreman, and his wife Bessey, née Smith. He was educated at Durham University and the London Hospital, where he was an outstanding student, gaining scholarships and prizes in biology, anatomy, physiology, pathology and medicine. On qualification he took up a London County Council research fellowship for two years on mental deficiency, making clinical observations in the various hospitals and doing his pathological work in the central laboratory at Claybury under F. W. Mott, with J. S. Bolton and Henry Head as colleagues.

In 1901 he entered general practice in Guildford, but he maintained his interest in psychiatry and in mental deficiency in particular, and in 1905 was appointed medical investigator to the Royal Commission on the Feebleminded. His Textbook of mental deficiency was accepted as the widest and most authoritative account from its first edition (1908); the eighth edition (1952) appeared on the day of his death, forty-four years after the first. It has been said that he did for mental deficiency what Sydenham did for general medicine; the classification he evolved still stands as a basis, though modified by subsequent research.

Tredgold did a great deal to arouse public opinion about the state of the mentally defective by public speeches throughout the country, by various papers, and by serving on committees at the Board of Education. His work contributed largely to the passing of the Mental Deficiency Acts of 1913 and 1927. His work in this field was interrupted by the War in 1914, for he had become, as well as a busy general practitioner, a highly keen and efficient company commander in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Queen’s Regiment. He went with his unit as adjutant, with the rank of major, to Gallipoli, and after the evacuation to western Egypt and Sinai. He was invalided home with severe dysentery in 1916, but remained in command of the local Territorial depot at Guildford.

After the war he returned to general practice and to consultant work in London, and became also neurologist to the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Here he played a major part, as chairman of the medical committee, in its development and enlargement. In 1920 he was appointed physician in psychological medicine at University College Hospital charged with founding a mental deficiency clinic. He continued his interest in the social aspects of deficiency, was one of the pioneers in the Central Association for Mental Welfare (later merged in the National Association for Mental Health), and served on the Ministry of Health Committee on Sterilization. His lectures for medical officers of schools and other post-graduates were long remembered for their clarity and inspiration in a subject previously considered uninteresting. He was before many of his contemporaries in realising the importance of the parent-child relationship for the defective, and his wise advice and understanding sympathy enabled many parents to bear their tragic burdens.

He retired from his hospital appointments in 1935, but continued in private practice and in committee work till increasing glaucoma became too severe a handicap. Writing and reading were his main hobbies, though he was also happy in his garden, doing mostly constructional work; in earlier days he had been a keen chessplayer.

In 1899 he married Zoe, daughter of Francis Hanbury, barrister-at-law. They had two daughters, the elder being principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, and one son, who was appointed physician-in-charge of the department of psychological medicine at University College Hospital.

Richard R Trail

‡ Spelling on birth certificate is Treadgold, elsewhere Tredgold.

[Brit.med.J., 1952, 2, 726-7 (p), 783; Lancet, 1952, 2, 642-3 (p); Times, 18 Sept. 1952.]

(Volume V, page 422)

<< Back to List