Lives of the fellows

Roger Francis Tredgold

b.23 October 1911 d.24 December 1975
BA Cantab(1932) MRCS LRCP(1935) MB BChir(1937) MA(1939) DPM(1939) MD(1947) MRCP(1965) FRCP(1971) FRCPsych(1971)

Roger Tredgold was born into a medical family. His father was A.F. Tredgold, FRCP, the author of one of the earliest textbooks on mental subnormality, which has remained internationally a standard work for nearly 70 years. His mother was bom Zoe Blanche Townley Hanbury, her father being a barrister. His elder sister, Joan Tredgold, became headmistress of Cheltenham Ladies College. With such a background, a conventional education was only to be expected. Winchester College, Trinity Cambridge, and University College Hospital followed in quick succession, and he qualified in 1935 with the Conjoint, and in 1937 with the MB. He went into the RAMC directly the war began, and rose rapidly as a specialist psychiatrist, ending as adviser in psychiatry to the Allied Land Forces in South East Asia. He retained a connection with the Army through Millbank for many years after the war.

His main life’s work began when he was appointed consultant in charge of the Department of Psychological Medicine at University College Hospital in 1948. This department had had its pioneer in Bernard Hart, and Tredgold soon re-established it in the forefront for clinical service and undergraduate teaching. His qualities of leadership and capacity for hard work were not exhausted by this job, and he found time for other professional activities whose variety gives evidence of his broad and comprehensive grasp of psychiatry. With several of his University College Hospital colleagues he radically recast his father’s famous textbook and gave it a new lease of life. He was a pioneer in industrial psychiatry, and wrote an early book on the subject, Human Relations in Industry. He travelled extensively for the World Health Organisation, giving lectures and seminars on this topic. With H.H. Wolff he wrote UCH Notes on Psychiatry in 1970, which has rightly achieved great popularity with undergraduates.

It is unfair to the man to confine this account mainly to his work, and mention only briefly at the end the other aspects of his life, for Roger Tredgold was all of a piece. In his work there was always apparent a very human person, passionately concerned with all those with whom he came into contact, whether patients, colleagues or friends. At the same time, in his play there was shown the same skill and concentraton as in his work, which made him, amongst other things, six times British Sabre Champion and more than once a member of the British Fencing team in the Olympic Games.

He was a committed Anglican who played an important part in the founding of the Institute of Religion and Medicine, but in religion and morals, as in so many other things, he often took a more forward than conventional view; for example, in his early advocacy of relatively liberal interpretations of the ‘social’ grounds for abortion.

His strength and effectiveness owe much to his happy marriage in 1938 to Verity Micheline Walker, daughter of Sir Gilbert Francis Walker, FRS. Their daughter, Rosemary, was a psychiatric social worker in New Zealand at the time of his death, while their son, Christopher, is a general practitioner. From the end of the war their house was in Heathfield, Sussex, with a beautiful garden and ample opportunities for another of his interests, bird-watching.

Roger Tredgold’s appearance was very characteristic, as he was tall and thin with a gradually increasing stoop as the years went on. His manner of greeting often seemed formal but his warmth and concern were apparent at the same time. At public gatherings he usually put others (and perhaps himself) quickly at ease with some sly joke or witty comment. He was not a profoundly original or critical scientist, and made few new contributions to psychiatry, but his influence as a teacher and author has been very great for more than a generation.

He died of carcinoma of the prostate.

Sir Desmond Pond

[Brit.med.J., 1976,1, 160; Lancet, 1976, 1, 101; Times, 2 Jan 1976; IRM, Newsletter 34, 1976]

(Volume VI, page 438)

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