Lives of the fellows

Byrom (Sir) Bramwell

b.18 December 1847 d.27 April 1931
MD Edin Hon LLD Edin Birm St And Hon DCL Durh FRCP Edin FRCP(1923) FRS Edin

Byrom Bramwell was born at North Shields, the eldest son of John Byrom Bramwell, M.D, and his wife Mary Young. He was sent to Cheltenham College for his schooling and to Edinburgh University and Paris for his medical training. When he had served as house surgeon in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, he returned to North Shields to help his father in practice. He received a number of local appointments there and in 1872 was made lecturer on medical jurisprudence at Durham College of Medicine, later adding the subjects of clinical medicine and pathology. In 1874 he began to practise as a consultant in Newcastle, having been elected physician and pathologist to the Royal Infirmary, but five years later moved to Edinburgh to start afresh. Here, after a hard struggle in which he was helped by his appointment in 1879 as a lecturer in the Extra-Mural School, he succeeded in establishing himself. He was made pathologist to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1882, assistant physician in 1885 and physician in 1897. He retired from the active staff in 1912.

Bramwell was primarily a general physician, but he made his scientific reputation chiefly in the fields of neurology, diseases of the heart and blood, and disorders of the endocrine organs. His first major written work, Diseases of the Spinal Cord (1881), was translated into French, German and Russian, and won great popularity in America. A favourable reception was also given to his books on Diseases of the Heart and Thoracic Aorta (1884), Intracranial Tumours (1888), and Anaemia and . . . Diseases of the Blood-forming Organs (1899). Two works of wider application, a finely illustrated Atlas of Clinical Medicine (1892-96) and his Clinical Studies (1903-10), gave evidence of his catholic knowledge. It was indeed as a masterly clinical teacher and as a brilliant diagnostician that Bramwell made his strongest impression on generations of medical students and house physicians at Edinburgh.

Recognition came to Bramwell by his election in 1910 to the Presidency of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, whose Morison lectures he had delivered eleven years earlier, in 1924 by the award of a knighthood, and by many academic honours, British and foreign. Bramwell was a man of tireless energy and strong physique. As an undergraduate he had captained his University's cricket eleven; at a more advanced age he enjoyed fishing, bridge, and watching cricket and rugby. He married in 1872 Martha, daughter of Edwin Crighton of North Shields, and had two daughters and three sons, one of whom was J. Crighton Bramwell, F.R.C.P, and another E. Bramwell, F.R.C.P. He died in Edinburgh.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1931; B.M.J., 1931; D.N.B., 1931-40, 100]

(Volume IV, page 585)

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