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Biographical entry Addison, Sir Christopher, Viscount Addison of Stallingborough (1869 - 1951)

Viscount 1945; Baron 1937; KG 1946; PC 1917; MRCS 12 November 1891; FRCS 12 December 1895; LRCP 1891; BS London 1892; MD 1893.

19 June 1869
Hogsthorpe, Lincolnshire
11 December 1951
Anatomist and Politician


Born 19 June 1869 at Hogsthorpe, Lincolnshire, son of Robert Addison, a farmer, and Susan Fanthorpe his wife. He was educated at Trinity College, Harrogate, and St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he was later demonstrator and lecturer in anatomy. He qualified in 1891 and took the Fellowship in 1895. He was professor of anatomy at University College, Sheffield, 1895-1901, and edited the Quarterly Medical Journal for Yorkshire and adjoining counties. He came back to London in 1901 on his appointment as lecturer in anatomy at Charing Cross Hospital and served also as dean of the medical school. He edited G V Ellis's Demonstrations of Anatomy, 12th edition, in 1905. In 1907 he went back to his old hospital, St Bartholomew's, as lecturer in anatomy, and held the post till 1913 although he had entered active political life in 1910. He was an examiner in anatomy for the Fellowship from 1903 to 1908, with (Sir) Arthur Keith, FRCS as his colleague.

It was about the turn of the century that the medical schools of London began to provide specialized teaching in anatomy, in place of the instruction formerly given by the hospital surgeons. Addison was among the able men first chosen for these whole-time posts; Keith in the same period was making his mark at the London Hospital. Each had taken the Fellowship, not with the intention of practising surgery, but as an indication of proficiency to teach surgical students.

Addison's main contribution to anatomy is recorded in an exhaustive paper, running through three volumes of the Journal of Anatomy, 1899-1901, "On the topographical anatomy of the abdominal viscera in man". The substance of this research was given as Hunterian lectures at the College in 1901, and Addison made further contributions to the subject in subsequent years (see the bibliography below). Keith has pointed out, in an authoritative survey of Addison's anatomical work in the British Journal of Surgery, 1952, that this three-dimensional mapping of the abdomen was based on some 10,000 measurements made on forty bodies, and that it provided for the first time a precise guide to the range of size and position of the contents of the abdomen. Addison himself pointed out that this had its immediate clinical value for the surgeon, at that time when operative intervention in the abdomen was being rapidly developed. The work is remembered today through "Addison's transpyloric plane", the imagined plane of section to which he related his measurements.

Addison had entered St Bartholomew's Hospital as a student in 1886 and was taught anatomy by C B Lockwood, FRCS with James Berry, FRCS as demonstrator. The other teachers of anatomy at Bart's during his student years (1886-89) were John Langton, F Howard Marsh, W Bruce Clarke, W H H Jessop, E W Roughton, Edgar W Willett, all Fellows of the College, and W P Herringham, FRCP. Lockwood had recently founded the Anatomical Society, which Addison joined in 1895; be became its honorary secretary in 1904-06, and was elected an honorary member in 1926.

Addison had long been interested in the political aspect of social and economic questions, and entered active political life at the time of the Liberal party's triumph. He was elected MP for the Hoxton division of Shoreditch in 1910, and his able support of Lloyd George, when the national insurance scheme was being passed through Parliament in 1911, marked him for office. He was parliamentary secretary to the Board of Education when war broke out in 1914. Lloyd George, on becoming Minister of Munitions, brought Addison to his side as under-secretary. His skilful administration, especially in matters of costing, won high praise, and when Lloyd George became Premier he succeeded to the Ministry of Munitions (1917) and was made a Privy Councillor. Later, as Minister for Reconstruction and as the first Minister of Health from 1918 to 1921, he promoted an ambitious programme of state-assisted housing. Addison by now was more radical than his leader and when he failed to win Lloyd George's support for his scheme, he resigned from the government, and soon made known his whole-hearted conversion to the Labour party.

At the general election of 1929 he was elected Labour member for Swindon, and in Ramsay MacDonald's government he became Minister of Agriculture (1930-31) and sponsored the first Agricultural Marketing Acts. Agriculture was, next to medicine, his chief personal interest. He was the son of a farmer, and in later life successfully farmed his own land in Buckinghamshire. He lost his seat at the general election of 1931, and was an outspoken critic of the "National" coalition government. He was re-elected for Swindon in 1934, but lost the seat at the next general election in 1935. At the coronation of King George VI (1937) he was raised to the peerage as Baron Addison of Stallingborough, County Lincoln, and he became Dominions Secretary when the Labour party came again to office in 1945. He made his greatest mark however as leader of the House of Lords, when he had to press the government's nationalization schemes in face of a very strong opposition, and did so with urbane ability. He was advanced to the rank of a Viscount in 1945, and was awarded on 3 December 1946 the rare distinction of a Knighthood of the Garter. As leader of his party in the House of Lords he won "the respect and abiding affection of all with whom he had to do, whatever their political views".

Formal tributes were paid to his memory in the House on 30 January 1952, and a memorial service was held the same day in Westminster Abbey. Addison was of solid build and middle height. His thick hair was raven- black in youth and snow-white in age. His colleagues celebrated his seventy-seventh birthday in 1946 by a complimentary luncheon at the House of Lords, and his eightieth birthday was also marked (British Medical Journal, 1946, 1, 993 and 1949, 1, 1132).

Addison married twice: (1) in 1902 Isobel, daughter of Archibald Gray; Mrs Addison died on 22 August 1934, at Peterley Farm, Great Missenden, leaving two sons and two daughters; (2) in 1937 Dorothy, daughter of J P Low, who survived him.

He died at Radnage, near High Wycombe, on 11 December 1951, aged 82, and was succeeded in the peerage by his elder son. There was a private funeral at Radnage Church, and a memorial service in Westminster Abbey.

On the topographical anatomy of the abdominal viscera in man, especially the gastro-intestinal canal (Hunterian lectures, Royal College of Surgeons). Journal of Anatomy, 1899, 33, 565; 1900, 34, 427; 1901, 35, 166 and 277. Also Lancet, 1901, 1, 759, 911, and 1059; and, as a book: Edinburgh, Neill and Co. 1901, 116 pp. Discussion on same subject. Journal of Anatomy, 1904, 38, Proceedings pages xxx-xlv.
A discussion on the topographical anatomy of the thoracic and abdominal viscera from a systematic and clinical standpoint (British Medical Association, annual scientific meeting, Cheltenham, 1901). Brit med J. 1901, 2, 1065.
Cervical ribs. Journal of Anatomy, 1902, 36, Proceedings pages lxxiv-lxxvi. Demonstrations of anatomy by G V Ellis, 12th edition by C Addison. London, 1905.
On the future of the medical services (speech at dinner of Charing Cross Hospital Medical School, 2 October 1937). Brit med J. 1937, 2, 766.
The betrayal of the slums. London: Jenkins, 1922.
Politics from within, 1911-18. Preface by Lord Carson. Jenkins, 1924. 2 vols. Practical socialism. Labour Publishing Co. 1926. 2 vols.
The nation and its food. Benn, 1929.
Religion and politics. Epworth Press, 1931.
Problems of a socialist government. Preface by Stafford Cripps. Gollancz, 1933.
Four and a half years (a personal diary from June 1914 to January 1919). Hutchinson, 1934. 2 vols.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 12 December 1951, p 8d, with portrait, 13 December, p 8f, 19 December, p 8e, 31 December, p 6e, and 31 January 1952, pp 6c and 7a; Lancet, 1951, 2, 1186, with portrait and reminiscences of his Sheffield period; Brit med J. 1951, 2, 1510 and 1525; Annals Roy Coll Surg Eng. 1952, 10, 1, with portrait; Brit J Surg. 1952, 39, 385, by Sir Arthur Keith, FRS; information from Professor A J E Cave, MD, Professor F Goldby, MD, Sir Ernest Finch, FRCS, and J L Thornton, librarian of St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College].

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