Lives of the fellows

Joseph Shaw Bolton

b.1867 d.12 November 1946
BSc Lond(1888) MB(1894) MD DSc Hon DSc Leeds FRCP(1909)

Joseph Shaw Bolton was born at Whitby, the son of Isaac Bolton, and went to Spring Hill School in his native town. Working as an unqualified assistant at an asylum and to a general practitioner in Manchester, he took the London B.Sc. degree in 1888 and fulfilled his father’s condition that he must save £100 before beginning his medical studies at University College, London. There he won a gold medal when graduating as M.B. in 1894, the Atchison scholarship, and the Filliter exhibition. He then became demonstrator of anatomy at his own medical school and spent three years as lecturer on physiology at Mason’s College, Birmingham, before obtaining, in 1899, his first appointment at an asylum—that of pathologist at Claybury. He was next made senior assistant medical officer successively at Hellingly (1903-05) and Rainhill (1905-10).

In 1910 Shaw Bolton began the main work of his career when he was appointed director of the West Riding Mental Hospital at Wakefield, where he remained for the next twenty-three years. One of his principal achievements there was the modernisation of the buildings. In 1911 he accepted the chair of mental diseases at Leeds University, a post which he held for the same period, being appointed emeritus professor on his retirement. Already well-known for his researches into cerebral functions, he published, in 1914, his magnum opus, The Brain in Health and Disease, which failed to receive due recognition on account of the War. He was a determined opponent of the new psychiatry and expressed his views on the Freudian school in an article entitled Myth of the Unconscious Mind (1926).

He was the recipient of numerous honours. Elected F.R.C.P. on the same day as his younger brother Charles, he delivered the Goulstonian Lectures in 1910 and the Lumleian in 1935. In 1925 he was chosen as Maudsley lecturer, in 1928 president of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, and in 1933 Henderson Trust lecturer. He was an examiner to Manchester University and consulting physician to Leeds General Infirmary. He emerged from his retirement to act as medical superintendent of Buckingham Mental Hospital and remained its consulting physician. He settled finally at Beaconsfield in 1935. Shaw Bolton, a modest, charming man, with a keen sense of humour and an instinct for hospitality, could display determination and vigour, if the occasion demanded. Practical and adaptable, he cared little for outward show. He married in 1906 Ellen Rogers, by whom he had two sons and one daughter. He died at Beaconsfield.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1946; B.M.J., 1946; Times, 14 Nov.1946; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1948,8]

(Volume IV, page 500)

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