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Sir Geoffrey Jefferson

Born  1886
Died  1961

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English neurologist and neurosurgeon, 1886-1961.

Biography of Sir Geoffrey Jefferson

Geoffrey Jefferson,the son of a general practitioner studied medicine at the University of Manchester, where he met his future wife, Gertrude, who was of Canadian stock, she too a student of medicine. In 1913 the couple moved to Victoria, British Columbia.

During World War I Jefferson served in The Anglo-Russian Hospital in Petrograd, Russia, where he gained experience in gun wounds on soldiers wounded on the eastern front. The hospital, a gift from the British empire to its Russian allies, consisted of a basic clinic with three mobile field hospitals at the front. Patients were hardly in short supply. During a single week in the summer of 1916, Jefferson in one of the three field hospitals treated 340 wounded soldiers and conducted 33 major surgical operations.

Following the March Revolution in Russia, chaos prevailed on the eastern front during the spring of 1917 and the Anglo Russian hospital faced almost insurmountable tasks. Jefferson writes to his wife in England:

    "There are plenty of rumours about an eccentric socialist named Lenin, which is said to have arrived here via Germany (NB !) and is now causing nothing but trouble and misery. The majority of our wounded from the war think that he ought to be arrested immediately, something I hope will be a fait accompli in a few days.”
A few days later Jefferson communicates:
    "I have just treated a man who had been shot in the foot by one of the terrorists of Lenin's gang. I don't think we shall have much more trouble with these Lenin types. They are in majority and, even if they should succeed in assuming power in Petrograd, the rest of Russia will not act in accordance with their premises."
From July 1918 until the end of the war (11.11.1918 - 11 a.m.) Jefferson served at war hospitals in France, and during this short period was able to treat more than 200 cases of cranial lesions caused by rifle bullets and shell splinters. After the war he worked as a general surgeon at the Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester.

Over the years Jefferson was to devote himself more and more to neurosurgery. In 1928 a special neurosurgical service was established for him at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, and eleven years later he was appointed professor of neurosurgery. Jefferson was manually dexterous and intellectually gifted. His contribution to scientific neurosurgical literature comprises any conceivable field. In 1925 Jefferson at the Salford Royal Hospital conducted the first successful embolectomy in England.

The year before he died he published a volume of Selected Papers, which is now a much sough after rarity containing many well formulated truths and shrewd thoughts.

In 1951 Sir Geoffrey Jefferson presided over the annual scientific meeting of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain & Ireland in Manchester-

On 1951 Jefferson published a small, thought-provoking two page article with the characteristic title On being happy and liking it. In it he writes:

    "From Haller . . . onwards to the best observer of them all, Flourens, and on again to Magendie and everyone else, all were agreed upon this, the brain was unresponsive except at the lower and lowest levels. The hemispheres were the seat of the "will"; they excited movements by playing on these motor mechanisms. But how they did so no one knew and no nice man would ask!" Robert M. Young: The Functions of the Brain: Gall to Ferrier (1808-1886). Page 46.

    "Looking back on my life I can only say that it has given me a maximum of satisfaction. Material gains play a small role in life's equation. The great advantage is to be allowed to work with things you enjoy. I wonder whether I would have cherished life the way I have if I had been denied the opportunity to work on medical questions which have enabled me to contribute some to medical knowledge."


  • Removal of a rifle bullet from the right lobe of the cerebellum: illustrating the spontaneous movement of a bullet in the brain.
    British Journal of Surgery, London, 1918, 5: 422-424.
  • The physiological pathology of gunshot wounds of the head.
    British Journal of Surgery, London, 1919, 7: 262-289.
  • Gunshot wounds of the scalp, with special reference to the neurological signs present.
    Brain, Oxford, 1919, 42: 93-112.
  • Fracture of the atlas vertebra: report of four cases, and a review of those previously recorded. British Journal of Surgery, London, 1920, 7: 407-22.
  • Report of a successful case of emboletctomy with a review of the literature.
    British Medical Journal, London, 1925, 2: 985-987.
    First successful embolectomy in Britain.
  • Arterial embolectomy.
    British Medical Journal, London, 1934, 2: 1090-1094.
  • Scepsis Scientifica.
    British Medical Journal, London, 1948, 1: 379-382.
  • On beeing happy and liking it.
    Br Med Soc J 1951, 6:3-4.
  • Selected papers. London: Pitman Medical, 1960.

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