Lives of the fellows

Charles William Michael Whitty

b.15 November 1914 d.4 March 1996
BA Oxon(1935) BSc(1937) BM BCh(1938) MRCP(1947) MA(1949) DM(1949) FRCP(1960)

Charles William Michael Whitty, ‘Michael’ to family and early friends, was an eminent clinical neurologist. He was educated at Clifton College, Brasenose College, Oxford and St Thomas’s Hospital. After junior hospital posts, including some experience of neurology, he joined the Army in 1940 where ‘Michael’ was replaced by various abbreviations of William. He served in mobile neurosurgical units in the Middle East and Italy, being mentioned in despatches in 1943, and at the St Hugh’s head injuries unit in Oxford, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war he remained in Oxford and, with the advent of the NHS, was appointed consultant neurologist to the Radcliffe Infirmary and later clinical lecturer in neurology at the University. From that point he was known as Charles Whitty at the insistence of Sir Hugh Cairns.

Charles had many interests in neurology and published extensively, mainly on epilepsy and migraine. His contributions to knowledge and teaching were recognized by his election as president of the Association of British Neurologists, serving from 1978 to 1979. He played an important role in the development of the Oxford hospitals and the medical school, being assiduous in committee, always reading papers from end to end and annotating them in his minute and illegible script. He was of equable temperament and an admirable colleague.

Charles was a liberal man whose views marked him out even as a student. A contemporary described him as being "bolshie" - which might now be regarded as a compliment to his original mind. His education and interests were wide, particularly in poetry and philosophy. He displayed a number of endearing eccentricities, most notably an adventurous and colourful taste in dress, well remembered by all who worked in the neurology department at Oxford.

He married Margaret in 1940 and they had three sons and two daughters. His final years were distressingly clouded by advanced dementia.

W B Matthews

[Brit.med.J., 1996,313,359]

(Volume X, page 518)

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