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Biographical entry Graves, Thomas Chivers (1883 - 1964)

MRCS 1 February 1912; FRCS 11 June 1914; MRCVS 1904; BSc London 1910; MD 1919; LRCP 1912.

11 May 1883
6 June 1964


Born at Histon, Cambridge on 11 May 1883, the son of Wright Graves, a veterinary surgeon, and the grandson of the founder of the firm of Chivers, food and preserve manufacturers, he received his education at the Perse School, Cambridge, and the Royal Veterinary College, London. He was encouraged to take up medicine, but his financial resources were limited after his veterinary training. However, he won the Bucknill scholarship at University College, London and this, with what he earned by giving veterinary tuition in his spare time, enabled him to complete his medical training. At University College and Hospital he won several medals, including the Liston gold medal for surgery, before qualifying in 1912 and becoming house surgeon to Bilton Pollard.

He served in the RAMC through the war of 1914-18, but on demobilisation he decided to specialise in psychiatry, though it had been his ambition to become a surgeon. He married in 1916 Evelyn Dorothy, daughter of Colonel J W Lang, who was a member of Queen Alexandra's Royal Military Nursing Service and had previously been Sister in charge of out-patients at the West London Hospital.

He was appointed medical superintendent of the Burghill Mental Hospital, Hereford, in 1920 and by 1922 medical superintendent of the Rubery Hill and Hollymoor Mental Hospitals, Birmingham, where the rest of his life's work was done. He had noticed how patients afflicted with mental disease returned to normal when organic disorders, particularly focal sepsis of the ear nose and throat, dental sepsis, and gynaecological sepsis, particularly following childbirth, were cured. Similar observation had been made by Dr Henry Cotton, of the Trenton Hospital, New Jersey, and after an interchange of visits they became close friends.

Graves's ambition was to bring the study of pathology and the basic principles of medicine into the practise of psychiatry, and he founded a research unit with a laboratory at Hollymoor Hospital, gathering around him a team of consultants in otolaryngology, dental surgery, and gynaecology. In the early 1920s he had built at both his hospitals a theatre for surgical treatment of focal sepsis, and in those years such equipment in mental hospitals was rare. The programme of these investigations received the full support of the Mental Hospitals Committee of the Birmingham City Council, of Sir Gilbert Barling, Bart, FRCS, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and of other leaders of the medical profession in Birmingham, and eventually he was appointed chief medical officer of all the mental hospitals controlled by the City Corporation. In 1940 he was elected president of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association and continued in his office for the next four years.

During the second world war, in addition to his psychiatric work, he was Commandant of the combined civil and military hospital which was set up at Hollymoor, which gave him the opportunity for further research, and in October 1941 he published a symposium on "Ear, Nose and Throat Disease in Mental Disorder", together with "the Psychiatric Sequelae following Head Injuries". He founded a school of approach to the treatment of mental disorder, which was taken up by H F Fenton, the medical superintendent of Powick Mental Hospital, Worcestershire; he also worked with Professor Gjessing of Oslo, Norway.

He lived at 94 Middleton Hall Road, Birmingham and died on 6 June 1964, aged 81, survived by his wife, herself a consultant in psychiatry, and their children. He was buried near Histon Baptist Church, Cambridge, where his grandfather had been a founder deacon.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Lancet 1964, 1, 1400 with portrait and eulogy by FAP; Brit med J 1964, 1, 1711 with appreciations by JMA and GMS, and 2, 128 by W Stirk Adams].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England