Derek Denny-Brown (doctor)
Derek Ernest Denny-Brown OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (1901 – 20 April 1981) was a neurologist
Neurology is a medical specialty dealing with disorders of the nervous system. Specifically, it deals with the diagnosis and treatment of all categories of disease involving the central, peripheral, and autonomic nervous systems, including their coverings, blood vessels, and all effector tissue,...

. Working in Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, he made major contributions to the field of neurology, such as the development of electromyography
Electromyography is a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. EMG is performed using an instrument called an electromyograph, to produce a record called an electromyogram. An electromyograph detects the electrical potential generated by muscle...

, physiology of micturition and the treatment of Wilson's disease
Wilson's disease
Wilson's disease or hepatolenticular degeneration is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder in which copper accumulates in tissues; this manifests as neurological or psychiatric symptoms and liver disease...



Born in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, he studied at the University of Otago
University of Otago
The University of Otago in Dunedin is New Zealand's oldest university with over 22,000 students enrolled during 2010.The university has New Zealand's highest average research quality and in New Zealand is second only to the University of Auckland in the number of A rated academic researchers it...

 at Dunedin
Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago Region. It is considered to be one of the four main urban centres of New Zealand for historic, cultural, and geographic reasons. Dunedin was the largest city by territorial land area until...

, South Island
South Island
The South Island is the larger of the two major islands of New Zealand, the other being the more populous North Island. It is bordered to the north by Cook Strait, to the west by the Tasman Sea, to the south and east by the Pacific Ocean...

, where he qualified in medicine in 1924. He then took up a fellowship to perform research at the department of Dr Sir Charles Scott Sherrington
Charles Scott Sherrington
Sir Charles Scott Sherrington, OM, GBE, PRS was an English neurophysiologist, histologist, bacteriologist, and a pathologist, Nobel laureate and president of the Royal Society in the early 1920s...

, where he studied motor neuron
Motor neuron
In vertebrates, the term motor neuron classically applies to neurons located in the central nervous system that project their axons outside the CNS and directly or indirectly control muscles...

 physiology. He obtained a DPhil
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 and published sixteen scientific papers on his research.

In 1928 he took up a clinical post at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery
National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery
The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery is a neurological hospital in London, United Kingdom and part of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust...

 in London, and over the subsequent years underwent neurological specialist training, as well as serving as a lecturer, at the National Hospital and Guy's Hospital
Guy's Hospital
Guy's Hospital is a large NHS hospital in the borough of Southwark in south east London, England. It is administratively a part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. It is a large teaching hospital and is home to the King's College London School of Medicine...

. The National Hospital was at the forefront of the developing specialty of neurology, and he was influenced by some of the senior staff such as Gordon Holmes
Gordon Morgan Holmes
Sir Gordon Morgan Holmes CMG CBE FRS was a British neurologist. He is best known for carrying out pioneering research into the cerebellum and the visual cortex....

, Charles Symonds
Charles Symonds
Sir Charles Putnam Symonds KBE CB was an English neurologist.His initial medical training was at Guy's Hospital, followed by specialised training at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery...

 and Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson
Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson
Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson was a British neurologist who was the first to describe Wilson's disease.-Biography:...

. In 1933 he joined the Territorial Army (TA) section of the Royal Army Medical Corps
Royal Army Medical Corps
The Royal Army Medical Corps is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all British Army personnel and their families in war and in peace...

 (RAMC), being commissioned as a lieutenant
First Lieutenant
First lieutenant is a military rank and, in some forces, an appointment.The rank of lieutenant has different meanings in different military formations , but the majority of cases it is common for it to be sub-divided into a senior and junior rank...

 on 9 December 1933, and promoted captain
Captain (OF-2)
The army rank of captain is a commissioned officer rank historically corresponding to command of a company of soldiers. The rank is also used by some air forces and marine forces. Today a captain is typically either the commander or second-in-command of a company or artillery battery...

 a year later. He was appointed as a neurologist at St Bartholomew's Hospital
St Bartholomew's Hospital
St Bartholomew's Hospital, also known as Barts, is a hospital in Smithfield in the City of London, England.-Early history:It was founded in 1123 by Raherus or Rahere , a favourite courtier of King Henry I...

 in 1935. He spent 1936 in Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

 at Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 performing research with former Oxford colleague John Fulton, then returned to London to work at the National Hospital. He married Sylvia Summerhayes in 1937; they were to have four sons. He transferred from the TA active list to the reserve of officers on 5 March 1938.

Denny-Brown was offered the professorship of neurology at Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School is the graduate medical school of Harvard University. It is located in the Longwood Medical Area of the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts....

 in 1939, but the Second World War intervened, he was placed back on the active list on 9 October 1939 as the British mobilisation intensified. The next two years he worked in Oxford, and only after direct pressure on Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 by Harvard president James Conant
James Bryant Conant
James Bryant Conant was a chemist, educational administrator, and government official. As thePresident of Harvard University he reformed it as a research institution.-Biography :...

 was his mobilisation cancelled, and he was able to accept the offer at Harvard, where he started work in 1941, as well as assuming the directorship of neurology at Boston City Hospital
Boston City Hospital
The Boston City Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, was "intended for the use and comfort of poor patients, to whom medical care will be provided at the expense of the city, and .....

. From 1945 to 1946 he was called again by the British army to direct the neurology services of the RAMC in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Burma, with the local rank of brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

, but he finally left the RAMC in 1950, and was granted the honorary rank of major. In Boston he did clinical work, teaching and training of residents, and physiological research. He was president of the American Neurological Association
American Neurological Association
The American Neurological Association, is a professional society with a mission of educating neurologists and physicians as well as increasing knowledge and enhancing treatment of diseases of the nervous system. It was founded in June 1875.-Officers:...

 between 1959 and 1960, and brought it closer to the more recently established American Academy of Neurology
American Academy of Neurology
The American Academy of Neurology is a professional society for neurologists and neuroscientists. As a medical specialty society it was established in 1949 by A.B. Baker of the University of Minnesota to advance the art and science of neurology, and thereby promote the best possible care for...


After his retirement in 1967 he continued basic research, mainly on the peripheral nervous system
Peripheral nervous system
The peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves and ganglia outside of the brain and spinal cord. The main function of the PNS is to connect the central nervous system to the limbs and organs. Unlike the CNS, the PNS is not protected by the bone of spine and skull, or by the blood–brain...

, in Boston. From 1972 until his death from multiple myeloma
Multiple myeloma
Multiple myeloma , also known as plasma cell myeloma or Kahler's disease , is a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell normally responsible for the production of antibodies...

 in 1981 he lived in Bethesda, Maryland
Bethesda, Maryland
Bethesda is a census designated place in southern Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, just northwest of Washington, D.C. It takes its name from a local church, the Bethesda Meeting House , which in turn took its name from Jerusalem's Pool of Bethesda...

, where he was scholar in residence at the National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health are an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and are the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research. Its science and engineering counterpart is the National Science Foundation...



Research in 1938, with J.B. Pennybacker, laid the foundation for clinical electromyography
Electromyography is a technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. EMG is performed using an instrument called an electromyograph, to produce a record called an electromyogram. An electromyograph detects the electrical potential generated by muscle...


In 1951 he introduced British anti-Lewisite
Dimercaprol or British anti-Lewisite , is a compound developed by British biochemists at Oxford University during World War II. It was developed secretly as an antidote for lewisite, the now-obsolete arsenic-based chemical warfare agent. Today, it is used medically in treatment of arsenic,...

 as the first treatment for the copper overload disorder Wilson's disease
Wilson's disease
Wilson's disease or hepatolenticular degeneration is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder in which copper accumulates in tissues; this manifests as neurological or psychiatric symptoms and liver disease...

. This discovery was one of the first effective treatments for a neurological condition.

Denny-Brown also made contributions to the understanding of many other neurological diseases.


Denny-Brown came to the United States in a time when neurosurgery
Neurosurgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of disorders which affect any portion of the nervous system including the brain, spine, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and extra-cranial cerebrovascular system.-In the United States:In...

 and psychiatry
Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental disorders. These mental disorders include various affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities...

outshadowed the small field of neurology. He is credited with training a large number of neurology professors, and bringing the field of neurology into prominence.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.