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Biographical entry Atkinson, William John (1918 - 1990)

TD with 3 bars; MRCS 1941; FRCS 1946; MB BS 1942; MD London 1947; MS 1957; LLB 1984; LRCP 1941.

18 May 1918
2 January 1990
Barrister and Neurosurgeon


William John Atkinson was born in London on 18 May 1918, the elder son of William Atkinson, a civil servant. He was educated at Ongar Grammar School and at Mercer's School in High Holborn before entering St Bartholomew's Hospital for his medical studies. He qualified in 1941 and immediately afterwards was appointed house surgeon to the neurosurgery unit at Shotley Bridge, Durham, returning to St Bartholomew's Hospital as senior house officer in the professorial unit in the following year. In 1942 he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps serving as a medical officer in the 6th Airborne Division and later in India.

At the end of the war he returned to St Bartholomew's as a supernumerary registrar and after passing the FRCS was appointed house surgeon at the National Hospital, Queen Square, where he worked under Wylie McKissock, Harvey Jackson and Valentine Logue. He was senior registrar at the London Hospital and later at the Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases and during this time he carried out research into destructive lesions of the hypothalamus, describing the effects of occlusion of the anterior inferior cerebellar artery. This work was continued while he was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He acquired the MD and MS degrees and was appointed Hunterian Professor in 1954, giving a lecture entitled The management of head injuries.

Initially he was appointed consultant neurosurgeon to the North Manchester Hospital Group and later to the Hurstwood Park Neurosurgical Centre at Haywards Heath. He was a prodigious worker and despite his heavy professional commitments served in the Territorial Army from 1947 until 1970, being awarded the Territorial Decoration with 3 bars. He also became interested in medico-legal aspects of psychosurgery and this led to his being called to the bar in 1962 and graduating LLB in 1984. After retiring from the health service at the age of 64 he spent some time as a barrister doing medico-legal work.

He married Imelda Morrisroe in 1944 and had two sons and two daughters the youngest of whom has graduated in medicine. In his earlier years he was a keen runner and tennis player but in later life his main outside interests were gardening and music. He died on 2 January 1990.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1990, 300, 936].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England