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Biographical entry Jefferson, Sir Geoffrey (1886 - 1961)

Kt 1943; CBE 1943; FRS 1947; MRCS 27 July 1909; FRCS 8 June 1911; LRCP 1909; FRCP 1947; MB BS London 1909; MS 1913; Hon FACS; Hon FRFPS Glasgow 1942; Hon FRCSI 1952; Hon FRCS Ed 1957; Hon FRACS 1957; Hon LLD Glasgow 1948; Hon FRSM 1955.

10 April 1886
29 January 1961


Born on 10 April 1886, son of Arthur John Jefferson MD of Rochdale, who was trained at St Thomas's and became honorary medical officer to Rochdale Infirmary, he received a classical education at Manchester Grammar School, as did his younger brother J C Jefferson FRCS (1888-1954). Proceeding to Manchester University in 1904 he entered the medical faculty as a contemporary of Twistington Higgins and Harry Platt. He was awarded the Sidney Renshaw Prize in Physiology at Manchester, and in 1907 the University of London Gold Medal in Anatomy at the 2nd MB Examination. His clinical training was carried out at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, with the exception of obstetrics for which he attended the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. He qualified in 1909 with the conjoint diploma and the MB BS London, in which he gained honours in surgery. In December of the same year he was appointed house surgeon at the Manchester Royal Infirmary to Professor G A Wright, whilst Harry Platt was appointed house surgeon to Sir William Thorburn, a neurosurgeon. An appointment at Tite Street Children's Hospital in Chelsea followed, working under Sir Herbert Waterhouse, after which he returned to Manchester as a demonstrator of anatomy for Professor Elliot Smith. During this period a paper written in conjunction with Harry Platt on the anatomy of the parotid gland was published, and two papers on the cerebrum. Next, further surgical study at the Royal Cancer Hospital took him to London again, and in 1913 he obtained the MS degree with a gold medal. While at Manchester he had formed an attachment for a Canadian medical student, Gertrude Flumerfelt, and in 1914 they were married and he decided to emigrate to British Columbia and set up as a surgeon in Vancouver. On the outbreak of war, however, he returned to England, joined the RAMC and was posted to the 2nd Western General Hospital. In 1916 Sir Herbert Waterhouse was asked to organise a Red Cross Hospital to go to Russia, and he invited Jefferson to form one of the group. After the revolution in 1917 on regaining England Jefferson was sent to the 14th General Hospital of the BEF at Boulogne, and in 1918 was given charge of all cases of head injury. On demobilisation he went to Boston to work under Harvey Cushing, and on his return in 1919 was appointed to the Ministry of Pensions Hospital at Grangethorpe, and shortly after elected to the Salford Royal Hospital, the birth-place in Manchester of modern neurosurgery. A few years later he was appointed as a neurosurgeon to the Manchester Royal Infirmary with four beds, but it was not until 1934 that a full neurosurgical department was established with thirty-four beds, constituting a University department with Jefferson as professor of neurosurgery. The Manchester school rapidly acquired world-wide reputation as a centre for clinical research, and Jefferson was made an honorary surgeon to the National Hospital, Queen Square, London. In 1940 he was made adviser in neurosurgery to the Ministry of Health, involving travel to all parts of the country served by the Emergency Medical Service. After the war his professorial term was extended for five years, at the end of which time he was created emeritus professor. He was president of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain, and a member of surgical societies in Paris, the United States, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, and Estonia. He was a member of the Medical Research Council 1948-52 and Chairman of the Clinical Research Board 1953-59. He was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society in 1947, a rare distinction for one who had done no experimental research. In 1949 he was Lister medallist; in 1956 Hughlings Jackson medallist of the Royal Society of Medicine, having been president of the section of neurology in 1949; Doyne medallist in 1945; Bowman medallist in 1953; and in 1960 Fedor Krauser medallist. At the College he was a Hunterian Professor in 1923, and at Cambridge was an examiner in surgery. He contributed freely to professional literature and many of his papers are outstanding presentations of clinical subjects in their relation to physiological problems. A founder member, he became president of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons, and in the USA was a member of the American Neurological Association and the Harvey Cushing Society. His catalogue of lectureships included the Martin lecture to the American College, the Balfour lecture to Toronto University, Macewen, Marnoch, and Purser lectures, Doyne lecture 1946, Cavendish lecture 1952, Rickman Godlee and Ludwig Mond lectures 1955, and Sir Victor Horsley lecture 1957. Jefferson was an exceptional man in that he combined a scholarly, precise approach to clinical problems with a tolerant, unerring judgment of men, mellowed by a rather impish wit.

He married Gertrude, daughter of A C Flumerfelt of Victoria, British Columbia, who qualified with the conjoint diploma in 1912 and took the DPM in 1937, becoming director of a family welfare service in Manchester; she died on 10 February 1961. They had two sons: John Michael DM MRCP, lecturer in neurology at Birmingham, and Anthony Andrew FRCS 1950, consulting neurosurgeon at Sheffield. Jefferson died on 29 January 1961 aged 74.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Biog Mem Roy Soc 1961, 7, 127 by Sir Francis Walshe, with Sir Gerald Kelly's portrait of Jefferson and bibliography; The Times 20 January 1961 p 12 e, 1 February p 15 e appreciation by Sir Harold Himsworth, 13 February p 16 e; Brit J Surg 1955, 43, 317 and 1961, 48, 585; Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1961, 29, 71 by Sir Harry Platt; Brit med J 1961, 1, 365 with portrait and appreciations by DWCN and Sir Harry Platt, and p 435 by Sir Arthur MacNalty; Lancet 1961, 1, 288 with portrait and appreciations by RTJ and Sir Robert Platt, and p 348 by FRP; New Engl J Med 1961, 264, 1060].

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