Lives of the fellows

Maurice John Parsonage

b.19 April 1915 d.5 December 2008
BSc Manch(1936) MB ChB(1939) MRCS LRCP(1940) DCH(1940) MRCP(1945) FRCP(1959)

Maurice Parsonage was a consultant neurologist in Leeds and an epilepsy specialist. He was born in Nantwich, Cheshire, during the First World War, the son of John Hodson Parsonage, a dental surgeon, and Florence Sophie Parsonage née Martin, the daughter of an engineer. He was educated at Willaston School, Nantwich, and then studied medicine in Manchester. He gained a BSc degree in 1936 and then qualified MB ChB in 1939, just before the start of the Second World War.

He was a house physician at Manchester Royal Infirmary from September 1939 to March 1940, and then became an assistant medical officer at Booth Hall Hospital for Children, also in Manchester.

From September 1940 to July 1946 he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, in the UK, India and Southeast Asia. Whilst in the UK, he was posted to the Military Hospital for Head Injuries in Oxford. He became a recognised specialist in neurology and general medicine, and was demobilised with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

After the war he trained further in neurology. From 1947 to 1951 he was a senior registrar in the department for nervous diseases at Guy’s Hospital. While at Guy’s, Parsonage (with J W Aldren Turner [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.582]) wrote an article in The Lancet on neuralgic amyotrophy, now known as Parsonage-Turner syndrome (‘Neuralgic amyotrophy; the shoulder-girdle syndrome’ Lancet. 1948 Jun 26;1[6513]:973-8).

From 1948 to 1950 he was a senior registrar in the department of applied electrophysiology at the National Hospital, Queen Square. In 1951 he spent eight months as an assistant resident at the neurological institute, Columbia Medical Center, New York.

In 1951 he was appointed as a consultant neurologist in Leeds, and as physician in charge of the neuropsychiatric unit at Bootham Park Hospital in York, where he went on to establish a centre for epilepsy for the north of England. His research and clinical interests in epilepsy ranged from classification, to neurophysiology and pharmacology, as well as the social and psychological dimensions.

For many years he was a member of and then chairman of the medical advisory committee of the British Epilepsy Association (BEA). He was a trustee of the charity from 1974 to 1977, and was vice president from 1986 to 2001. He was made an honorary life member. He was also a founder trustee of the British Epilepsy Research Foundation.

He was also active in the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) and the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE). He was chairman of the ILAE’s commission on anti-epileptic drugs and chairman of the joint ILAE/IBE commission on driving licences. He served on the board of directors of IBE from 1977 to 1981 and was president of the British branch of the ILAE, and of the ILAE/IBE congress on epilepsy, which took place in London in 1982.

Outside medicine, he enjoyed reading (particularly biographies), tennis and cricket, and cine photography.

In 1943 he married Marion Helen Clifton, the daughter of a leather merchant. She predeceased him in 2002. They had two sons and a daughter.

RCP editor

[BMJ 2009 338 1160; epilepsy action: Dr Maurice J Parsonage – accessed 23 October 2014]

(Volume XII, page web)

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