Radcliffe, Charles Bland (DNB00)

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RADCLIFFE, CHARLES BLAND (1822–1889), physician, born at Brigg in the north of Lincolnshire on 2 June 1822, belonged to a family long settled in the Isle of Man, and was eldest son of Charles Radcliffe, a Wesleyan minister. John Netten Radcliffe [q. v.] was his younger brother. Charles completed his education, begun at home, in the grammar school at Batley, near Leeds, and was subsequently apprenticed to Mr. Hall, a general practitioner, at Wortley. He finished his medical training in Leeds, Paris, and London. In Paris he studied under Claude Bernard. He graduated M.B. at the London University in 1845, when he is said to have been the first student from a provincial medical school who succeeded in obtaining a gold medal. He graduated M.D. in 1851. He became a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1848, and was elected a fellow in 1858. He filled the office of Gulstonian lecturer in 1860 and of Croonian lecturer in 1873. He subsequently became a councillor of the College of Physicians, and in 1875–6 he acted as censor.

He was appointed, on 21 May 1853, assistant physician to the Westminster Hospital, where he succeeded to the office of full physician 25 April 1857, and he was elected to the consulting staff on 27 May 1873. He lectured upon botany and materia medica in the medical school attached to the hospital. In 1863 he was appointed physician to the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic in Queen Square, in succession to Dr. Brown-Séquard, and it was in connection with this institution, and the diseases of the nervous system which it was founded to relieve, that Radcliffe's name was best known. He died very suddenly on 18 June 1889, and was buried in Highgate cemetery. He married in 1851, but left no issue.

Radcliffe, whose personal appearance was extremely striking, was a type of all that is best in a physician of the old school, modified by a modern scientific training. His mind was essentially metaphysical with a strong bias towards novel theories. He was one of the earliest investigators in this country of the electrical physiology of muscle and nerve, but he was too much occupied with abstract theories to do much by way of experiment. He was, as Sir Burdon-Sanderson points out, essentially a vitalist, but with this difference—that in his doctrine electricity took the place of the vital principle. Theological speculation also interested him, and he read with almost equal zest the works of Plato, Aquinas, and Maurice.

An unfinished portrait, by Sir William Boxall, belongs to Mrs. Radcliffe.

Radcliffe's works are: 1. ‘Proteus, or the Law of Nature,’ 8vo, London, 1850. 2. ‘The Philosophy of Vital Motion,’ 8vo, 1851. 3. ‘Epilepsy and other Affections of the Nervous System marked by Tremor, Convulsion, or Spasm,’ 8vo, 1854; 2nd edit. 1858; 3rd edit. 1861. 4. ‘Lectures on Epilepsy, Pain, Paralysis, and certain other disorders of the Nervous System,’ 8vo, 1864. 5. ‘Articles in Reynolds's System of Medicine,’ 1868 and 1872. 6. ‘Dynamics of Nerve and Muscle,’ 8vo, 1871. 7. ‘Vital Motion as a Mode of Physical Motion,’ 8vo, 1876. 8. ‘The Connection between Vital and Physical Motion: a Conversation,’ privately printed, 1881. 9. ‘Behind the Tides,’ privately printed.

Radcliffe was joint editor with Dr. W. H. Ranking from 1845 to 1873 of Ranking's ‘Abstract of the Medical Sciences.’

[Personal knowledge; obituary notices; Westminster Hospital Reports, by G. Cowell, 1889, v. 1; Proceedings of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society, 1890, by Sir E. H. Sieveking, M.D.; additional information kindly given to the writer by Mrs. Radcliffe.]

D’A. P.