Lives of the fellows

George Payling Wright

b.4 April 1898 d.4 April 1964
BA Oxon(1924) BM BCh Oxon(1924) DM Oxon(1929) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1942)

George Payling Wright, who was to become a research worker and pathologist of distinction, was the second son of William James Wright, a Congregational minister, and Mary Esther (Mandell) Wright. His preparatory school was at Middlesborough and his later education at Bridgenorth Grammar School, Christ’s College, Finchley, and University College, London, from which he went to Exeter College, Oxford, on an open scholarship to read chemistry. From 1917 to 1919 he served as a second lieutenant with the Royal Garrison Artillery, and returned then to Exeter College to read physiology under C. G. Douglas, J. S. Haldane and Sir Charles Sherrington, and to gain the Theodore Williams scholarship in pathology and the Filliter scholarship at University College Hospital in 1923. There he was appointed MacGregor scholar in histology, but in 1925 went with a Rockefeller travelling scholarship to Washington University, St. Louis, U.S.A., to study under Montrose T. Burrows.

On his return he was awarded the Graham research scholarship, and from 1928 to 1931 worked as a research fellow in E. T. Cohn’s laboratory at the Harvard Medical School. He was then appointed lecturer in morbid anatomy in A. E. Boycott’s department, curator of the museum, and pathologist to U.C.H., where he remained until he took the Sir William Dunn chair of pathology at Guy’s Hospital in 1934.

Wright was an elegant experimentalist, able to evaluate the hypotheses formed by reading because he was never narrow-minded; his scholarship was always influenced by a profound and instructive understanding of fundamental biological processes. To see how he tackled the problems of neurology was an inspiration to his students and colleagues; they knew they were with a master, but yet felt at ease.

His energy was prodigious. He threw new light on every detail he studied from the pathology of erythrocytes and the physiological effects of liver extracts to the workings of bacterial toxins in the central nervous system. He spoke and wrote with authority, as for example in An Introduction to pathology (1950), which had a marked effect on undergraduate teaching, and in his valedictory address at Guy’s, The Future of university pathology: requirements in London (.Lancet, 1963, 2, 1177-80).

He matured to a medical elder statesman, worthy of the honours of president of the pathology section of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1953-4, chairman of the planning group of the Nuffield Institute of Comparative Medicine which he served from 1960, vice-president of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and founder member of the British Society for Immunology.

In 1937 he married Dr Helen Margaret, daughter of Alexander Goddard, C.B.E. They had one son, and one daughter who predeceased him.

Richard R Trail

[Ann. roy. Coll. Surg. Engl., 1964, 34, 414-16; Brit.med.J., 1964, 1, 988 (p), 1054; Guy’s Hosp. Rep., 1963, 112, 219-21; 1965, 114, 1-3; Lancet, 1964, 1, 836-7 (p), 887-8.]

(Volume V, page 461)

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