Lives of the fellows

Francis Martin Rouse (Sir) Walshe

b.19 September 1885 d.21 February 1973
Kt(1953) OBE BSc Lond(1908) MB BS(1910) MD(1912) MRCP(1913) FRCP(1920) DSc(1924) Hon DSc NUI(1941) FRS(1946) Hon D Litt Hum Cincinnati(1959)

Francis Walshe was born in Ireland, the son of Michael Charles Walshe, a company director, and Rose Light, whose father was a Colonial Surgeon (FRCSE) in the West Indies. Francis was educated at Bath and at University College School; going thence to University College, London, of which he was later a Fellow.

His life story is one of unremitting devotion to medicine, and especially to neurology and neurophysiology. He was actively in practice for some 60 years. During this immensely long and distinguished career he held many positions of eminence. He enjoyed particularly his presidency of the Association of British Neurologists (of which he was a founder member) and also that of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1952 to 1954. He took special interest and pride in his editorship of Brain over 16 years, ending in 1953. His clinical pre-eminence, combined with a great series of scientific and critical studies, were rewarded by election to the Royal Society in 1946. He was knighted in 1953.

After qualifying at University College Hospital, Walshe joined the medical unit in the time of T R Elliott, and later founded the department of neurology there. He had been house surgeon to Sir Victor Horsley, and he was later a colleague of Wilfred Trotter, for whom he often expressed admiration and affection. Apart from service with the RAMC in the 1914-18 war, he worked mainly at UCH and the National Hospital, where he was for many years senior physician. Nowadays it will be considered notable that he never received payment for any of his hospital work throughout a career which took him to the age of 70 before retirement. Charging remarkably modest fees, he managed all his affairs on what he earned in private practice.

As a public figure Walshe fearlessly spoke his mind on matters of medical importance. His arguments were so trenchant in concept and piercing in exposition that he seemed often to be expressing for all his contemporaries those feelings which they themselves had neither the power nor the courage to formulate. Some of his public utterances were so brilliant and adroit that he stung to hostility those who justified his observations. Certainly in his prime Walshe was a formidable figure, who chastened not only his opponents but also anyone who aspired to his good will or respect either as editor or colleague. But when, rather late in life considering his great merits, he achieved substantial recognition, he was more and more able to show his warmth and benignity to those who came in contact with him; and ‘even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer’ when his name was mentioned.

The vast span of his medical life links the conceptualising influence of Jackson with the technical marvels of isotopic delineation of the brain. No-one did more than Walshe to make the link logical, secure and rewarding for medicine and for humanity.

In 1916 he married Bertha Marie Dennehy by whom he had two sons, one of whom, John M. Walshe FRCP, has become distinguished in medicine in Cambridge.

W Gooddy

[Biogr.Mem.Roy.Soc., 1974, 20, 457-481; Brit.med.J., 1973, 1, 555; Lancet, 1973, 1, 496; Times, 24 Feb 1973]

(Volume VI, page 448)

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