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Biographical entry Causey, Gilbert Washington (1907 - 1996)

MRCS 1932; FRCS 1933; MB ChB Liverpool 1930; DSc 1964; FDS 1973; LRCP 1932.

8 October 1907
Wigan, Lancashire
25 August 1996


Gilbert Causey was born on 8 October 1907 in Wigan, Lancashire, the son of George Causey and Ada, née Hargreaves, who were shopkeepers. He was educated at Wigan Grammar School and Liverpool University. In 1930 he qualified MB ChB with first class honours, having been awarded numerous prizes and medals.

After house posts at Liverpool Royal Infirmary he was appointed surgical registrar at Walton Hospital, Liverpool, and became a Fellow of the College in 1933. He then spent some time in general practice in Fowey, Cornwall, before joining the Emergency Medical Service at the outbreak of the second world war in 1939.

He commenced his academic career in 1947 in the anatomy department of University College Hospital. The new head of department was Professor J Z Young who was continuing research in peripheral nerve injuries that had been started at Oxford during the war. This stimulated Causey's interest in peripheral nerves and he established his own research group with Elizabeth Palmer, C J Stratmann and others.

In 1952 he was appointed Sir William Collins Professor of Human and Comparative Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons, a post he held until 1970. His department, with R J Last, J Stansfield and R Livingston rapidly established an international reputation in the teaching of anatomy for the primary FRCS. Generations of surgeons passed through this course while attending the Basic Sciences Institute at the College. His own teaching was very authoritative with excellent, and reproducible, blackboard diagrams. This old fashioned technique enabled surgeons to present good records of their operations and clinical findings.

Using the new electron microscope he continued his work on peripheral nerves, undertaking important early ultrastructural studies. These studies were continued despite the vibrations from London Underground trains which ran below the College. The solution was to reflect a beam of light from a dish of mercury onto the ceiling: when the train had passed the beam became steady and Tony Barton was able to take a photograph in the moment of time when it was still.

In 1964 he was awarded the DSc Liverpool and later published a small but influential book, The cell of Schwann. In it he established the importance of segmental demyelination as a pathological process which Gombault and Millet had first identified towards the end of the last century but which had since been widely forgotten. Another book was on electron microscopy and he co-wrote a dissecting manual with J T Aitken, J Z Young and J Joseph. He was honorary treasurer of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland for many years.

His extra-curricular interests were gardening, sea fishing, Cornish history and playing the violin in amateur quartets. In 1935 he married Ellen Elizabeth Hickinbottam and she died in 1995. He died on 25 August 1996, survived by their two sons and three daughters.

Sources used to compile this entry: [J Anatomy 1997 191 619].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England