b.11 December 1909 d.4 March 1972
BA Oxon(1931) BM BCh(1934) DM(1938) MRCP(1937) RCP(1950)
Malcolm Campbell was born in Brechen, Scotland, the son of Malcolm Campbell MB., ChB., FRCS Ed., who settled in Droitwich and became Honorary Physician to the Royal Brine Baths Clinic for Rheumatic Diseases. His mother was Elsie Gordon, the daughter of a shipping merchant. His academic career started at St John’s College, Oxford, and his clinical studies were pursued at Guy’s Hospital. Graduating BM BCh in 1934 he held various house appointments at Guy’s, including that of house physician to Sir Charles Symonds by whom he was professionally adopted and who first aroused his interest in neurology. In 1936 he became medical registrar to Dr E.P. Poulton and Dr J.M. Campbell. In the following year his father was taken ill and he returned to Droitwich to look after his father’s practice; he was appointed Honorary Physician to the Royal Brine Baths Clinic and clinical assistant to J.H. Sheldon at the Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton. In January 1940, he joined the Royal Air Force and served till the end of 1945 as a neuropsychiatrist and medical specialist at various RAF hospitals. His last appointment with the RAF was in Scotland where he served as Specialist in Neuropsychiatry with the rank of Squadron-Leader.
On demobilization he realized that he had no desire to return to Droitwich, or to specialize in rheumatic diseases. He had become wedded to neurology and was appointed Neurological Registrar to Ritchie Russell at Oxford in 1946. Later that year, he was appointed assistant physician to Corsham Hospital, Bristol, and shortly afterwards was elected physician to the Bristol Royal Hospital and the Bristol City Hospitals. He was also appointed lecturer in medicine in the University of Bristol. He served the Bristol hospitals and his adopted University with the utmost loyalty and devotion until his death in 1972 at the age of 62. He was an active member of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Association of Neurologists on the Council of which he served for some time.
Malcolm Campbell was a very good general physician but gradually devoted more and more of his time to neurology, so that it finally became his major field of practice. He was a good teacher, perhaps best at the bedside, and was keenly interested in his students by whom he was held in high esteem and affection. Throughout his professional life he was always striving to advance knowledge. With his wide knowledge of medicine and his keen, enquiring mind, he was quick to recognize unusual phenomena and to follow them up. He was one of the first to describe active toxoplasmosis in an adult. His chief research interest, however, was in the aetiology of disease and how it might help in cure and prevention.
One of the main problems with which he was concerned was that of disseminated sclerosis. Struck by its apparent similarity to swayback, a demyelinating disease of sheep - which is believed to be related to a copper deficiency - he explored the possible role of trace elements or heavy metals in its causation. He was stimulated to further efforts by the curious geographical incidence of the disease and also by the fact that some veterinarians working on swayback were known to have developed disseminated sclerosis, and he took part in efforts to transmit the disease from human brains to sheep in Iceland. Later in his life he became intensely concerned with the problem of drug addiction, particularly as it affected students and teenagers. Shortly before his death he published observations on the occurrence of cerebral atrophy in cannabis users.
Malcolm Campbell was very fond of the countryside. He was an enthusiastic ornithologist and greatly interested in wild flowers. He was essentially a physician-naturalist in the true ‘tradition’ of his great hero Edward Jenner. When in Berkeley one day he asked passers-by what they knew of Jenner and was concerned to find that most of them knew nothing. Thereupon he resolved that something must be done to commemorate Jenner in his home town. As a result of his enthusiastic energy and drive, the Jenner Trust was established and the Jenner Museum opened at Berkeley in the cottage which Jenner built for James Phipps, the first boy he vaccinated in May 1796.
Malcolm was a delightful companion and, although intolerant of humbug, had a wonderful kindness and charm. He married Mary, the daughter of Richard C. Clarke, FRCP, consultant physician to the Bristol Royal Hospital. He had one son and three daughters, and enjoyed a very happy family life. The last years of his life were somewhat clouded by illness, but he faced this with great fortitude and would not allow it to interfere with his work or other activities. He died suddenly, at a parent-teacher association meeting at a girl’s school in Bristol where he was to have spoken on the problem of drug addiction.
[Brit.med.J., 1972, 1, 754; Lancet, 1972, 1, 643]
(Volume VI, page 84)
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