b.14 July 1902 d.21 August 1958
MB BS Durh(1925) MD Durh(1927) MRCP(1928) FRCP(1937)
Charles Ungley was born in London. His father, Charles Ungley, was an accountant; his mother, whose maiden name was Goody, came from Belsham St. Paul in Suffolk. He was educated at Archbishop Holgate School and the Medical School in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where he won the Turnbull and Outterson prizes and the Tulloch, Gibb, Dickenson and Philipson scholarships. Following resident appointments up to that of medical registrar at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, he was awarded a Rockefeller fellowship in 1930 and studied at Harvard University and the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
His first interest was in neurology; in 1929 he had published with M. M. Suzman an article in Brain (52, 271-94) on subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord. By now, however, he had turned his attention to pernicious anaemia; this interest was stimulated by the influence of W. B. Castle in Boston. By patient and meticulous research he was to show the identical therapeutic effects of crude and purified liver extracts, that pure vitamin B12 gave the same response, and that both the anaemia and the neurological features of pernicious anaemia were due to a deficiency of one and the same vitamin. In 1933 he joined the staff of the Royal Victoria Infirmary, and in 1935 was awarded a Leverhulme scholarship by the College to carry on further studies.
Throughout the Second World War he served with the R.N.V.R., first at the Royal Naval Hospital, Kingseat, near Aberdeen, and then at Durban. There he became interested in the problems of survival at sea, particularly on the aetiology and management of ‘immersion foot'. This work he did not himself complete because of his hospital work and his increasing disability from essential hypertension, but it was eventually published with McCance, Crosfill and Widdowson (M.R.C. Special Report Series, No. 291, 1956). In 1938 he was Goulstonian lecturer of the College.
His outstanding work brought him world-wide recognition; without his contribution the British team led by E. Lester Smith would have been unable to isolate and crystallise vitamin B12 in 1948, and his pioneer work on the gastric intrinsic factor may yet point the way to the solution of its precise relationship with vitamin B12. His researches on the nutritional anaemias advanced our knowledge of the megaloblastic anaemia of pregnancy and of the effects of vitamin C deficiency on wound healing.
Ungley was a conscientious and keen teacher who taught the place of his specialty in general medicine. He retained his charm and even his bonhomie through his last fifteen trying years, during which he was an enthusiastic golfer and glider-pilot until these hobbies had to give place to oil-painting which he enjoyed with equal success. In 1931 he married Edith, daughter of Arthur Holliday; they had one son and two daughters.
Richard R Trail
[Brit.med.J., 1958, 2, 641-2 (p); Lancet, 1958, 2, 531-2 (p); Univ. Durh. med. Gaz., 1958, 53, 28-9 (p).]
(Volume V, page 427)
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