Lives of the fellows

James Carson

b.1 February 1908 d.27 May 1993
MB ChB St And(1932) MRCP(1942) FRCP(1954)

James Carson was born in Rossie, near Montrose, Scotland, where his father James Carson MBE was a headmaster. He studied medicine at the University of St Andrews, pursuing his clinicals at the Dundee Royal Infirmary. While an undergraduate his prowess at tennis resulted in the captaincy of the university team. After house posts at Dundee Royal Infirmary, he trained as a neurologist at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Queen Square, from 1941-45, and was subsequently appointed assistant neurologist at Sheffield Royal Infirmary and Sheffield Royal Hospital. He brought to his consultant appointment a vision of the direction in which the spectrum of neurological services should grow.

Carson began his work m Sheffield at a time when there was no formal specialty of neurology nor of psychiatry but he fashioned both, relinquishing his connections with psychiatry when the university founded a department in that subject. He worked alongside the developing neurosurgical department but owing to temperamental difficulties the liaison was initially unfriendly. The most important diagnostic aids of that period were the development of air encephalography and cerebral angiography, with which Carson’s professional life coincided.

He was a clinician of great distinction; his diagnostic ability and his skill as a teacher were both formidable and fruitful. His patients and colleagues regarded him with respect and affection which was evidenced by the generous gift which permited him to create the Ryder Briggs Fund for the Advancement of Neurological Science - a fund which has backed outstanding research since its inception.

He married Margaret Avis Jones (Betty) in 1945. He had no children of his own, but Betty brought him two stepchildren and he was both generous to them and interested in their careers. The regular bi-annual visits of his distinguished bachelor friends, Brodie Hughes and John Aldren, were proof of the loyal friendship and hospitality characteristic of John and Betty. He led a full and rounded life, creating a fine garden at their house in Bamford. Golf, racing and bridge were among his other interests which - except for golf - were shared by his wife. In later years, physical infirmity made his body a burden to him but his mind remained sharp and his intellect critical until his end.

A. Jefferson

[The Times, 17 June 1993]

(Volume IX, page 77)

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