Lives of the fellows

William Ivor Neil Kessel

b.10 February 1925 d.30 December 2003
BA Cantab(1945) MB BChir(1949) MRCP(1955) DPM(1958) MD(1963) MRCP Edin(1965) FRCP(1967) FRCP Edin(1968) MSc Manch(1969) FRCPsych(1972)

Neil Kessel was professor of psychiatry at the University of Manchester. He was born in London, the son of Barney Kessel, a GP, and Rachel Isabel Kessel née Feitelson, the daughter of a merchant. His cousin, Albert Sachs [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.515], also became a fellow of the RCP. Kessel was educated at Highgate School, and then went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, and University College Hospital.

He was a registrar at St Stephen’s Hospital, London, from 1953 to 1955, and then a registrar and subsequently a senior registrar at the Maudsley Hospital. In 1958 he gained his diploma in psychological medicine with a distinction. For two years, from 1958 to 1960, he was a research assistant at the Institute of Psychiatry, working with Michael Shepherd [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.446] in the GP research unit.

Between 1960 and 1965 he was on the scientific staff and, from 1963, assistant director of the Medical Research Council’s unit for research on the epidemiology of psychiatric illness. From 1961 to 1965 he was a lecturer and then a senior lecturer in the department of psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, as well as a consultant psychiatrist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In 1965 he was appointed to the chair of psychiatry at Manchester University, succeeding Edward William Anderson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.14]. He began at Manchester by working on the new department of psychiatry, which opened at the University Hospital of South Manchester in 1970. The idea was to destigmatise mental illness by basing patients, psychiatrists and services in a district general hospital, rather than an asylum. In just a few years he had attracted an outstanding group of NHS consultants to the department. He also invited Brian Hore to Manchester to set up an alcoholism unit at Withington Hospital.

Kessel’s main research interests were in suicide and attempted suicide, the identification of psychiatric morbidity in general practice, and the epidemiology of psychosomatic medicine. With Henry J Walton he co-wrote Alcoholism (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1965), one of the first books on alcohol dependence designed for the general public. Kessel also gave the 1965 Milroy lecture to the RCP on the subject of self-poisoning.

A gifted teacher and lecturer, Kessel also took a full part in both undergraduate and postgraduate training. From 1974 to 1976 he was dean of the medical school at Manchester.

He was an adviser on alcoholism to the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) from 1972 to 1981, and chairman of the DHSS advisory committee on alcoholism from 1975 to 1978. From 1974 to 1995 he was a member of the General Medical Council.

Outside medicine, Neil Kessel collected rare books and modern art. In 1958 he married Pamela Veronica Joyce Boswell. His wife, son (David) and daughter (Joanna) all survived him.

RCP editor

[The Psychiatrist (2004) 28:309-310]

(Volume XII, page web)

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