Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Griffith, Arthur Donald (1882 - 1944)

MRCS 27 July 1905; FRCS 9 December 1909; MB BS London 1907; LRCP 1905.

20 October 1882
5 March 1944
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born 20 October 1882 at Stamford Hill, London, eldest son of Arthur Griffith, solicitor, who survived his son, and his wife, née Donald. The family had a distinguished legal tradition. He was educated at Tollington Park College, at King's College, Strand, where he was a junior scholar, and at King's College Hospital, where he won the Sambrooke exhibition, and served as house surgeon, house physician, and surgical registrar. After serving as house surgeon at the Royal Eye Hospital, Southwark, he was elected to its staff in 1909 and proceeded through the usual appointments, including that of dean of the medical school, to the position senior surgeon. He was a member of the Hospital's council for twenty-two years. He had been senior resident medical officer at the Royal Free Hospital, was ophthalmic surgeon and lecturer in ophthalmology Westminster Hospital; and president of the Students' Union there. Griffith was commissioned in the RAMC on the formation of the Territorial Force in 1908; was promoted captain on 1 April 1915; served as senior ophthalmic surgeon at Malta, and was then officer in-charge of Hamrun Military Hospital there. After a period at Salonika he was promoted brevet major on 1 January 1918, and served as senior medical officer in the Faenza area in Italy, during the period when the Allies were supporting the Italian war-effort; he was mentioned in despatches, and created a Cavaliere of the Order of the Corona d'Italia.

After the war Griffith became consulting ophthalmic surgeon to the Italian Hospital, London, and to St David's Home for disabled Soldiers at Ealing. He served on the council of the Medical Defence Union. Although he had a large private practice at 7 Queen Street, Mayfair, and found time for pioneer research especially in the radium treatment of glioma, Griffith's chief energies in his later years went into developing the research and teaching facilities of the Royal Eye Hospital, thus making an important administrative contribution to the advance of ophthalmology in England. In his honour the hospital posthumously established a Griffith lecture in optics. He was a councillor of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom 1932-35.

He died in the Westminster Hospital on 5 March 1944 aged 61, and was buried at St Pancras Churchyard, Hampstead, after a requiem mass at the church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, W. While on war service in Italy he had married in 1918 Aurora, daughter of Conte Mocenigo Soranzo of Venice, who survived him, but without children.

Griffith was a man of wide cultivation, a good linguist, the writer of a beautiful hand, a lover of literature, and a Dante scholar; he also collected old glass. "Griff" was an inspiring friend and teacher; as a young man he had been a great friend of the "eccentric genius" Malcolm Macdonald McHardy (1852-1913), MRCS, senior surgeon to the Royal Eye Hospital, to whose private practice he also succeeded. Modest and tolerant, he aimed at perfection for his own work, in which he united scrupulosity with sound judgment. Shyness somewhat concealed his sense of fun.


Injuries of eye and orbit.Lancet 1916, 1, 1245.
Squint and binocular vision. Trans Ophthal Soc UK 1931, 51, 286.
Glioma retinae treated by radium. Trans Ophthal Soc 1933, 53, 238.
Treatment by radium, in Modern trends in Ophthalmology, edited by F Ridley and A Sorsby. London, 1940, p 536.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 7 March 1944, p 6g; Lancet, 1944, 1, 391, with portrait and eulogy by L H Savin, FRCS; Brit med J 1944, 1, 408, and p 473, with eulogies by Arnold Sorsby, FRCS and by I Wanless Dickson, FRCSEd; Brit J Ophthal 1944, 28, 258, with portrait and eulogy by A. Sorsby; Broadway, Westminster Hosp Gaz 1944, 10, 28, with portrait; Royal Eye Hospital, Report for 1943, portrait; information given by Mrs Griffith].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England