Head, Sir Henry
- Head, Henry, Sir (1861-1940)
- Archives and manuscripts
About this work
The papers cover some aspects of Head's life in detail, but there are few records of his major achievements in medicine. The records of his work (Section B) are mainly the texts of lectures and papers, but there are some case notes: B2/1 is a volume of reports on the examination of pilgrims to Lourdes which Head undertook in 1895 with the help of George Bull, an English Roman Catholic doctor from Paris; and B3 is a volume of post mortem reports on cases of shingles, which affects the same areas as visceral disease, representing, as Head discovered, the distribution of either a single nerve root or of a single segment of the spinal cord, now known as 'Head's areas'.
The photographs of Head's arm (B9) probably date from his 1905 work on the effects of severing the nerves in his own arm, and several of the papers and cuttings in Sections A4 and B18 comment upon the experiment.
In Section A is the text of an autobiography which Head dictated at some time during his last years, but apparently never completed. It covers only his childhood, schooldays at Charterhouse, his residence in Halle in 1880, his undergraduate days at Trinity College, Cambridge, and his work on the physiology of respiration with Ewald Hering at the German University in Prague from 1884 to 1886. Head's letters to his mother (D2) give many more details of the same period, the letters from Halle including diary entries.
Head's and his wife's shared interest in art, architecture, music, literature and drama is recorded in their diaries and scrap books (Section E), and much of their correspondence (D4). Lady Head wrote novels and it is probable that the prose works in Section F are hers.
The restricted life which he and Lady Head lived after his retirement is vividly illustrated in the correspondence between Lady Head and Hester Marsden-Smedley (D6).
The papers are in English, with one item in French (B.2/1).
By section as follows:
B Records of Head's work;
C Reprints and publications;
E Scrap books and diaries;
F Literary works;
In 1896 Head met Ruth Mayhew, an assistant mistress at Oxford High School who became headmistress of Brighton High School for Girls in 1899. They were soon writing to each other at least once every week, and married on 28th April 1904. Their home was a meeting place of talents, artistic as well as scientific, and their friends included Thomas Hardy, Siegfried Sassoon and Stephen Tennant. Head wrote poetry, and in their correspondence, he and Lady Head discuss his ideas and their expression..
The work for which Head became widely known to the general public was his study with W H R Rivers in 1905 of the effects of severing the nerves in his own arm..
Head suffered for the last twenty years of his life from Parkinson's disease, which gradually disabled him. Although his mind remained active, even to the extent of recording the effects of the disease on his own body, he was forced to give up most of his activities. He published his seminal work on aphasia in 1926, but had already retired from his active work as Editor of Brain and as consulting physician at the London Hospital. Thereafter, he and Lady Head lived first at Dorchester and then, after the death of Thomas Hardy, at Hartley Court, near Reading. Lady Head died in September 1939, and Sir Henry in October 1940.
Further biographical details can be found in the Dictionary of National Biography, in Sir Russell Brain's Doctors past and present (Pitman Medical, 1964), and in obituaries in theBritish Medical Journal, the Lancet and Brain. R A Henson's biographical work was edited after his death by W I Macdonald and was published in the Journal of Medical Biography, 1998; 6: 15-20.
Born 4 August 1861.
1875-1880 Charterhouse School, Godalming.
Mar-Aug 1880 Halle, Germany.
1880-1884 Trinity College, Cambridge: BA 1884.
Sep 1884-1886 The German University, Prague.
Completed courses in anatomy and physiology at Cambridge: MA 1886.
Clinical study at University College Hospital: qualified MB 1890; MD 1892.
MRCS, LRCP 1890.
House physician, University College Hospital.
House physician, Victoria Park Hospital for Diseases of the Chest.
1894 Clinical Assistant, County Asylum, Rainhill, Prescot, Lancashire.
1896 Registrar, then Assistant Physician, London Hospital, Whitechapel; 1913 Physician; 1919 Consulting Physician.
1908 Awarded the Royal Medal.
1910-1925 Editor of Brain.
Died 8 Oct 1940.
Material held elsewhere: The records of Heads 1905 experimentation on his arm nerves survive in the library of the Department of Experimental Psychology in the University of Cambridge, and are available for study by appointment with the librarian. The London Hospital, Whitechapel (now the Royal London Hospital) retains its own administrative, financial and patient records and ephemera including Bulloch's biographies of members of staff and Donald Hunter's collection of oral reminiscences, both of which mention Head, and the minutes of the hospital's Medical Society, 1903-1907, when Head was president. These can be consulted by appointment with the Royal London Hospital archivist.