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Biographical entry Grimsdale, Harold Barr (1866 - 1942)

MRCS 10 May 1894; FRCS 14 June 1894; BA Cambridge 1888; MB BCh 1892.

12 November 1866
5 May 1942
Ophthalmic surgeon


Born 12 November 1866 the fourth son of Thomas Frederick Grimsdale (1823-1902), MRCS 1845, of 29 Rodney Street, Liverpool, a leading gynaecologist (see Brit med J 1902, 2, 919; Lancet, 1902, 2, 712) and Jane Bury, his wife, who lived till her hundredth year. An elder son Thomas Babington Grimsdale (1856-1936), MRCS 1881, like HB Grimsdale a St George's man, succeeded to their father's Liverpool practice (Lancet 1936, 1, 688). H B Grimsdale was educated at Winchester 1880-85 where he won an entrance exhibition; he also won the Kirby foils, and was in the Wimbledon shooting VIII in 1884 and its captain in 1885. He went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, as an exhibitioner in 1885 and graduated with second-class honours in Part 1 of the Natural Sciences Tripos in 1888. He received his medical training at St George's Hospital Medical School, where he won an entrance scholarship and was demonstrator of anatomy 1893-1900. In 1891 he joined the St George's Rowing Club, having stroked the Caius boat while at Cambridge; he was one of the founders and first editors of the Hospital's Gazette. He served as house physician at the Hospital in 1893.

His interest being turned to ophthalmology by R Brudenell Carter, he served as chief clinical assistant at Moorfields Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital under William Lang, became assistant to the ophthalmic surgeon, W A Frost, at St George's in 1894 on the retirement of Carter, and was elected ophthalmic surgeon in 1906, becoming consulting surgeon on retirement. He was surgeon to the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital 1899-1923, and then consulting surgeon. He was also consulting surgeon to Bushey Cottage Hospital, to the Royal Normal School for the Blind, Norwood, to the Governesses Benevolent Institution, and to the Artists Annuity Fund. From 1914 to 1917 he served on the Local Government Board's Departmental Committee on the Welfare of the Blind, and served as consulting ophthalmic surgeon to military hospitals in London during the four years' war. He was a vice-president of the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom.

Grimsdale married on 28 February 1903 Mabel, daughter of S E Todd of Beverley, who survived him but without children. He practised at 3 Harley Place, W and afterwards at 2 Cambridge Terrace, Regent's Park, which was wrecked in an air-raid in 1941. He died at Hindhead on 5 May 1942. He left £500 each to the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital, the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, and the Royal Normal School for the Blind. Grimsdale was a good linguist with a wide knowledge of foreign work in his specialty, and translated Italian papers for the British Journal of Ophthalmology. He was a good amateur water¬colour painter and a facile writer of light verse. In later life he was interested in music and the stage, and also played golf with some success. There is a good portrait of him in St Geo Hosp Gaz 1909, 17, 1.

He was a sound diagnostician and operator. Mr Rutson James wrote of him: "As a surgeon he tended towards conservatism, but if he thought a new method worth trying he gave it a good trial. In early years he was inclined towards the French school. His surgical technique was of a very high standard. He was best at cataract extraction; his extractions were models of neatness, and the results excellent; his results were also good in glaucoma cases. He was a keen supporter of Lagrange's work on sclerecto-iridectomy, and it was some time before he took to trephining. Another subject in which he was much interested was retinal detachment, most of these cases were submitted for igneous puncture. Unfortunately before Gonin's work we did not know the importance of sealing the hole, he had only occasionally a successful result. Plastic surgery of the eyelids was another field in which he was pre-eminent."


Changes in refraction in diabetics. Trans Opthal Soc UK 1899, 19, 267.
Textbook of ophthalmic operations, with Elmore W Brewerton London, 1907; 2nd edition, 1920; 3rd edition, 1937.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times, 9 May 1942, pp la and 6b; Brit med J 1942, 1, 655; Lancet, 1942, 1, 636 ; Brit J Ophthal 1942, 26, 284 ; further information given by Mrs Grimsdale and by R R James FRCS].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England