Lives of the fellows

Neil Simson Gordon

b.28 May 1918 d.9 November 2010
MB ChB Edin(1940) MD(1943) MRCP Edin(1946) MRCP(1947) FRCP Edin(1962) FRCP(1971)

Neil Simson Gordon was the first consultant paediatric neurologist in Manchester and has been described as the ‘wise grand old man of UK paediatric neurology’. Born in Edinburgh, he was the son of Ronald Grey Gordon, a distinguished physician, and his wife, Agnes Theodora née Henderson, who was the daughter of George, a farmer. His elder brother, Ian Ronald Simson Gordon [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.217] was a renowned paediatric radiologist. After attending Charterhouse School, he studied medicine at Edinburgh University and the Royal Infirmary.

He qualified in 1940 and did house jobs at the Royal Infirmary before joining the RAF medical service in 1941. During his military career he served as a medical officer to mobile field hospitals in North Africa, Italy and France. On demobilisation in 1946, he returned to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as a registrar and then joined the staff of the National Hospital, Queen Square, in London, progressing steadily up the professional ladder. During this time he spent a year in San Francisco as a visiting lecturer at the University of California.

In 1955 he moved to St Mary’s Hospital as a senior registrar in neurology to Denis Brinton [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.45]. While there, his interest in paediatrics was stimulated and encouraged by Tom Stapleton [Monk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] and, three years later, he was appointed a consultant neurologist at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Booth Hall Children’s Hospital, also in Manchester. Although similar positions existed at Great Ormond Street, he was the first specialist paediatric neurologist to be appointed outside London.

During his first 16 years he was the only consultant in paediatric neurology in Manchester and had no junior staff at all. Gradually he built up a well-organised, well staffed unit which delivered hospital and community care to the region and he was one of the first to initiate comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment centres for children. In 1983 he retired after 25 years in post. He published extensively on the topics of chronic handicaps, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, disorders of language, learning difficulties, clumsiness, emotional problems and somatic and psychological medicine. In these papers he examined in detail the results that suffering from learning difficulties and low self esteem could have on a child, producing a downward spiral of clumsiness and educational failure. He wrote one of the first textbooks on the subject, which was originally published in 1976 and revised and updated as Neurological problems in childhood (London, Taylor and Francis, 1993).

Of particular interest to him was the work of speech therapists, which in early times seemed very focused on adult needs. Taking part in a government enquiry into speech therapy services in the early 1970s, he was made an honorary fellow of the College of Speech Therapists. He was also a founder member of the British Paediatric Neurology Association and its president for six years. President of the European Federation of European societies of paediatric neurology in 1980, he was also a board member of the International Child Neurology Association.

He loved gardening and listening to music.

In 1942 he married Valerie Margaret née Gray whose father was a mining engineer. They had a son and daughter. Valerie predeceased him and he was survived by their children.

RCP editor

[Arch dis child 1985 60 603-4]

(Volume XII, page web)

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