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Biographical entry Hadfield, Geoffrey (1889 - 1968)

FRCS (by election) 1954; MD London 1913; MB BS 1911; FRCP London 1932; FCPath.

Born
17 August 1889
Manchester
Died
9 January 1968
Bedford
Occupation
Pathologist

Details

Geoffrey Hadfield was born on 17 August 1889, in Manchester, the son of James Hadfield, a merchant whose interest in the import trade was associated with a love of travel, for he made four voyages round the world, landing finally at Plymouth, which he liked so much that he decided to settle there when Hadfield was 9 years old.

His education at the Hoe Grammar School was followed by a pre-medical course at the Plymouth Technical College in company with Norman Lake and J W Trevan, the latter accompanying him as a student to St Bartholomew's Hospital which he entered shortly after his sixteenth birthday. He soon distinguished himself by winning a Junior Scholarship and the Harvey Prize in Physiology in 1908. He qualified with the London degree in 1911 and then held house appointments at St Bartholomew's and the Metropolitan Hospital, and was a medical officer and resident pathologist at the Miller General Hospital, Greenwich, when war broke out in 1914. In 1913 he had won the Gold Medal in the London MD Examination at the unusually early age of 24.

Though initially inclined towards clinical medicine, his interest in pathology developed in the RAMC, the first impetus in this direction arising from the fact that when there was an epidemic of cerebrospinal fever in France during the winter of 1914-15 he happened to be the only one among a group of officers who knew how to examine specimens of cerebrospinal fluid. Subsequently he served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia where his experience in the laboratory diagnosis of various intestinal infections resulted in a valuable contribution to the literature. He was demobilised in 1919, and in 1920 he was appointed clinical pathologist to the Bristol General Hospital and demonstrator in the University Department, where he taught till 1928 when he became Professor of Pathology at the London School of Medicine for Women, the Royal Free Hospital. His phenomenal visual memory enabled him to excel as a morbid anatomist and histologist, and his skill in drawing made him an ideal teacher of this special subject. This teaching was always closely related to clinical medicine, his own continuing interest in the clinical aspects being manifested by passing the MRCP Examination in 1925. He was elected FRCP in 1932.

In 1933 he returned to Bristol as Professor, but only for two years as he was appointed to the chair at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College in 1935. Here his ability as a teacher was greatly appreciated, as was his kindly interest in the many young men who came to him for advice in planning their careers and research projects. His quiet, almost diffident manner put them at their ease, and they knew that they could rely upon the breadth of his knowledge and his practical wisdom, coupled with a determination to examine with the most meticulous care every aspect of any problem presented to him.

This kindliness, coupled with great administrative ability, enabled him to overcome all difficulties in establishing a first-class department of pathology in the Emergency Medical Service in 1939, for he was one of the very few members of the Hospital Staff who bothered to learn how to cooperate with the Ministry of Health. He thus managed to convert a small dwelling house in the grounds of Hill End Hospital, St Albans, into a pathology laboratory capable of undertaking a modest amount of teaching and research as well as satisfying the needs of a large hospital with several specialized units, and housing the headquarters of the pathological services of the whole of Sector 3 of the EMS.

After the war Hadfield had to undertake more than his fair share of administrative reconstruction, first in the disordered Museum Department of Pathology at Bart's, and then in 1948 moving to the Royal College of Surgeons where he played a prominent part not only in the restoration of the war-damaged department, but particularly, as the first Sir William Collins Professor of Pathology, in establishing teaching and research in the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, of which he became the first Dean. For these distinguished services to the College he was elected to the Fellowship in 1954. He retired from these College appointments in 1955 when he became Director of Clinico-Pathological Research of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Later still he returned to the College Department of Physiology where he continued his studies of wound healing until his final retirement in 1966.

His chief contribution to medical literature was Recent advances in pathology, in collaboration with L P Garrod, a text-book which he saw through six editions, and which was subsequently continued by Professor C V Harrison. He also wrote on wound healing, and on human breast cancer. He was founder member of the Association of Clinical Pathologists, of which he became President, an appropriate distinction for one who, though an academic pathologist, always approached his problems from a clinical standpoint.

In 1918 he married Eileen, daughter of William Irvine, and they had two sons and one daughter, all of whom became Fellows of the College. Their family life was ideally happy, and they lived in Charterhouse Square while he worked at Bart's and in Lincoln's Inn Fields, moving after his retirement to Henley-on-Thames. He died on 9 January, 1968 in Bedford, at the home of his younger son.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Ann Roy Coll Surg Eng 1968, 42, 139; Brit med J 1968, 1, 187; Lancet 1968, 1, 151; J Path 1969, 97, 405].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England