Lives of the fellows

William Walton Gooddy

b.19 January 1916 d.17 November 2004
MRCS LRCP(1941) MB BS Lond(1942) MD(1946) FRCP(1953)

William Walton Gooddy was a respected and much-liked consultant neurologist. He was educated at Winchester College and then spent nine months touring Germany, before entering University College London to read medicine. After qualifying he was house physician to the medical unit at UCH and then to Frances Walshe [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.448]. He was generally regarded as Walshe's protégé.

During the war he served in the army, first as a regimental medical officer and then at the famous head injuries hospital in Oxford, a 'breeding ground' for many subsequent consultants in neurology, neurosurgery and neurophysiology. Later he was in charge of the medical division of the British Military Hospital in Berlin.

He was appointed consultant neurologist to University College Hospital, London, and the National Hospital, Queen Square, at the young age of 32 and he served these hospitals with great distinction. He was also civilian consultant for the Royal Navy.

His approach to teaching was definitely 'hands-off' - he believed students should have virtual autonomy aided by friendly and constructive criticism from above. This, too, is how he ran his firm. Once he had ascertained that his registrar or senior registrar was reliable, he would allow almost complete freedom of action, but with careful and unobtrusive supervision. I worked for Gooddy at every level, from medical student to RMO and senior registrar at the National Hospital, Queen Square, and I never heard a word spoken against him or a cross word spoken by him. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that he was venerated by the many overseas postgraduate students who studied under him. He was universally regarded as the epitome of courtesy and good humour.

His great research interest was time and the nervous system, epitomised by his Bradshaw lecture to the College in 1976 entitled 'Time and the nervous system: the neuron as an escapement'. In this lecture he defined time and relative time, he discussed what he called 'government time' and 'personal time', described escapement as a quantum notion in time-keeping and came up with a thought-provoking description of neuronal function as a neurologically intrinsic clock-mechanism - a form of escapement. The lecture continued with descriptions of circadian rhythms and cortical activity. It was a lecture which deserved much greater and wider recognition.

He had many and varied interests and hobbies, including bee keeping, archery, photography (he was good enough to have photographs published in The Times) and making tiles (of a high enough standard to be sold at Heal's). Other interests included playing the organ and he was a keen follower of Dr Johnson. He was a truly charming man, and a man of intellect and substance.

Leon Illis

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List