Lives of the fellows

Frank Abercrombie Elliott

b.18 December 1910 d.28 May 2003
MB ChB Cape Town(1934) MRCP(1937) FRCP(1948)

Frank Abercrombie Elliott was the founding director of the department of neurology at the Pennsylvania Hospital and professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa, the youngest of four children of Arthur Abercrombie Elliott and Kathleen Gosselin.

He attended the University of Cape Town Medical School, and was awarded a gold medal at his graduation in 1934. He was also awarded a three-year travelling fellowship in general medicine. Elliot then trained in neurology at the National Hospital, Queen Square, London. He was chief consultant in neurology to the British Army, overseeing services in Scotland, Ireland and India, from 1940 to 1947, later becoming special adviser to the War Office, London.

Elliott succeeded Sir Gordon Holmes [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.195] as consulting neurologist to the Charing Cross Hospital. In 1958, he joined the Pennsylvania Hospital as its first chief of neurology, at the urging of Garfield Duncan, the chief of internal medicine. He succeeded in developing a highly respected neurological centre and training programme. His efforts were supported by grants from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the John A Hartford Foundation. He attracted a number of talented physicians and scientists, who helped him build his department. It was a source of joy and satisfaction to him that several of his young colleagues eventually became chiefs of their own university departments of neurology, neurosurgery and pathology in universities across the USA.

His research was initially focused on stroke prevention and treatment. He developed one of the first stroke risk analysis clinics in America. He was passionate about the management of stroke patients, his goal being the elimination of risk factors for stroke in such patients, and prevention of stroke recurrence. Somewhat later he became interested in patients with disorders in the borderlands of neurology and psychiatry, especially the diagnosis and treatment of rage disorders. He took particular pride in having defined a group of patients with episodic rage disorders, which, he believed, had an organic basis. He was a principal consultant to the medical and jurisprudence systems in the evaluation of individuals who displayed unexplained destructive behaviour.

His book Clinical neurology (London, Cassell & Co,1952; Philadelphia & London, W B Saunders Co, 1964), a text for students and practitioners, was valued by students and practitioners alike. Elliott's masterful use of English in this book still serves as a model for clear, concise and beautiful writing on a clinical subject.

In 1940 Elliott married Betty Kathleen Elkington, by whom he had two daughters, Sally and Gillian. This marriage was dissolved in 1969. He later married Gwladys Hopkins Marvel of Philadelphia; she died in 1997. He died peacefully at the age of 92, at the Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia.

H S Schutta

(Volume XI, page 178)

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