Beale, Lionel Smith (DNB12)

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BEALE, LIONEL SMITH (1828–1906), physician and microscopist, born at Bedford Street, Covent Garden, London, on 5 Feb. 1828, was son of Lionel John Beale (1796–1871), surgeon, who wrote on physical deformities (1830–1) and on the laws of health (1857) and was the first medical officer of health for St. Martin's in the Fields. His mother was Frances Smith (1800–1849), third daughter of James Frost Sheppard. Of his three sisters, Ellen Brooker (1831–1900) married William Watkiss Lloyd [q. v. Suppl. I], author of ‘Essays on Shakespeare,’ and Miss Sophia Beale is a painter and author.

Educated first at a private school and then at King's College School, Lionel became a medical student at King's College, London, and at King's College Hospital. In 1841 he was apprenticed to an apothecary and surgeon at Islington. In 1847, after matriculating at the University of London with honours in chemistry and zoology, he went to Oxford as anatomical assistant to Sir Henry Wentworth Acland (1815–1900) [q. v. Suppl. I], then Lee's reader in anatomy at Christ Church. In 1849 he obtained the licence of the Society of Apothecaries, and at the request of the government board of health made a house to house visitation at Windsor during the cholera epidemic. In 1850–1 he was resident physician at King's College Hospital and graduated M.B. Lond. (1851). He never proceeded to the degree of M.D. In 1852 he taught the use of the microscope in normal and morbid histology and physiological chemistry in a private laboratory at 27 Carey Street, and next year at the early age of twenty-five he succeeded Robert Bentley Todd [q.v.] , to whose teaching he always acknowledged a deep debt, in the professorship of physiology and general and morbid anatomy in King's College; Thomas Henry Huxley was an unsuccessful candidate. Beale shared the duties for two years with (Sir) William Bowman (1816–1892) [q. v. Suppl. I], who had been Todd's assistant. In 1869 he gave up the chair to become professor of pathological anatomy, and was made at the same time honorary physician to the hospital. Although an energetic lecturer and teacher, he continued to pursue enthusiastically histological and physiological research by aid of the microscope.

In 1876 he was promoted to the professorship of medicine. A slight attack of cerebral thrombosis which scarcely impaired his vigour led to his retirement from the professorship as well as from the acting staff of the hospital in 1896. He was thereupon nominated emeritus professor and honorary consulting physician. His lectures on medicine, although they included a useful series 'On Slight Ailments, their Nature and Treatment' (1880; new edit. 1887), did not as a rule supply teaching for examination purposes ; but if the audience was small, it was stimulated by Beale's scientific insight. At the Royal College of Physicians Beale became a member in 1856 and a fellow in 1859. In 1871 he was awarded the biennial Baly gold medal for his physiological work in relation to medicine. He delivered the Lumleian lectures in 1875 on 'Life and Vital Action in Health and Disease.' He was frequently examiner to the college, a member of the council in 1877-8, censor 1881-2, and curator of the museum 1876-88.

From early life Beale was a voluminous writer, reading over 100 papers on medical subjects between 1851 and 1858 before scientific and medical societies. Of his many separately published books, the earliest, ' The Microscope and its Application to Clinical Medicine ' (1854), came out when he was twenty-nine and foretold his ultimate position as one of the most brilliant of English microscopists, who not only introduced new methods of microscopic research but also showed the value of the microscope to diagnosis in clinical medicine. The word 'practical' replaced 'clinical' in subsequent editions of this work, the fourth and last of which appeared in 1870. There followed in 1857 ' The Use of the Microscope in Clinical Medicine'; in later editions, the fifth and last of which appeared in 1880, the title was changed to ' How to Work with the Microscope.' In 1858 he published a small book, 'Illustrations of the Constituents of the Urine, Urinary Deposits and Calculi' (2nd edit. 1869), and in 1861 a larger work 'On Urine, Urinary Deposits, and Calculi, their Microscopical and Chemical Examination' (12mo; 2nd edit. 1864, with 'and Treatment, &c.' added to the title; American edit. 1885). Other important early works were 'On the Structure of the Simple Tissues of the Human Body' (1861 ; German trans. 1862) and 'The Structure and Growth of the Tissues, and on Life' (1865).

Beale's scientific promise was acknowledged in 1865 by his election as fellow of the Royal Society, where he delivered the Croonian lectures in the same year on ' The Ultimate Nerve Fibres distributed to the Muscles and to some other Tissues.' In 1868-9 he lectured at Oxford for the Radcliffe trustees on 'Disease Germs.' He embodied his conclusions in two books : 'Disease Germs, their Supposed Nature' (1870), and 'Disease Germs, their Real Nature, an Original Investigation' (1870). Both were reissued in 'Disease Germs, their Nature and Origin' (1872). In 1870 there appeared his 'Protoplasm, or Life and Matter' (4th edit. 1892), and in 1872 his 'Bioplasm, an Introduction to the Study of Physiology and Medicine.' In his works on germs Beale foreshadowed by virtue of ms microscopic methods of investigation some of the most modern conceptions of bacterial disease, anticipating by fully five years the microbic theory of disease and also Pasteur's doctrine of 'immunisation.'

Beale was the first physiological investigator to practise the method of fixing tissues by injections and so prevent the alterations which result in them from uncontrolled post-mortem changes. He also treated tissues with dilute acetic acid, which enabled him to see delicate nerve fibres almost as well as they are seen by modern intra vitam staining methods, and he introduced carmine in ammoniacal solution as a stain for differentiating between the component parts of the tissues. By means of the staining effects of carmine he was able, after a close study of tissues in various conditions, to draw a distinction between the 'germinal ' matter or 'bioplasm,' as he called it, and the 'formed' matter of the tissues. Beale's discoveries also included the pyriform nerve ganglion cells, called 'Beale's cells,' and he showed the peculiar arrangement of the two fibres which he thought (incorrectly, as later inquiry shows) were prolonged from them. An unusually good draughtsman, Beale illustrated his books profusely with graphic drawings by himself, many of which were coloured, and all were drawn strictly to scale. He made the drawings direct upon the boxwood blocks, and even engraved many with his own hand. Beale's drawings of Beale's cells are still reproduced in standard works on histology. All his microscopic specimens are in the possession of his son and are still improving in clearness.

In later life Beale was president of the Microscopical Society (187&-1880) and fellow or member of numerous European and American medical or scientific societies. He also acted from 1891 to 1904 as physician to the pensions commutation board and as government medical referee for England. To the close of his life he speculated much on philosophical and religious themes. His mental attitude is disclosed in his ‘Life Theories’ (1870); ‘Life Theories; their Influence on Religious Thought’ (1871), and ‘Our Morality, and the Moral Question, chiefly from the Medical Side’ (1887). In discussing ‘vitality and vital action’ (cf. Lancet, 1898) he pronounced strongly against ‘atheism,’ ‘materialism,’ ‘agnosticism,’ ‘monism,’ and ‘free thought.’ His religious point of view was that of a broad churchman. He treated the differences between man and animals as absolute, but he failed to defend his scientific position quite clearly, or to draw into controversy as he hoped fellow men of science.

Beale's intimate friends included Edward Thring (1821–1887) [q. v.], headmaster of Uppingham, Sir Henry Acland, Victor Carus of Leipzig, Sir William Bowman, and Henry Wace, dean of Canterbury. An indefatigable worker, he took no real holiday after 1858. He eschewed alcohol and ate little meat. An enthusiastic and skilful gardener, he made his country home at Weybridge known amongst horticulturists, chiefly by his culture of palms and Japanese plants, and in a small greenhouse at 61 Grosvenor Street, where he lived for forty-five years, he successfully grew orchids and other hothouse plants. In 1900 he suffered from a second attack of cerebral hæmorrhage. In 1904 he left Weybridge, where he had been living since 1885, for Bentinck Street, the house of his only surviving child, Peyton Todd Bowman Beale, F.R.C.S. He died there from pontine hæmorrhage on 28 March 1906. He was buried in Weybridge cemetery. He married in 1859 Frances, only daughter of the Rev. Peyton Blakiston, M.D., F.R.S., of St. Leonards, formerly of Birmingham; she died in 1892.

Beale was of moderate height and of sturdy build, with remarkably abundant hair, which retained its brown colour up to the age of seventy. A portrait by H. T. Wells, R.A., exhibited in the Royal Academy (1876) and the Paris exhibition (1878), belongs to his son, and a memorial tablet in bronze, designed, worked and erected by his son, is in King's College Hospital.

Besides the works cited and contributions to periodicals Beale's publications include: 1. ‘On Some Points in the Anatomy of the Liver of Man and Vertebrate Animals,’ 1856. 2. ‘Tables for the Chemical and Microscopical Examination of Urine in Health and Disease,’ 1856. 3. ‘On Deficiency of Vital Power in Disease,’ 1863. 4. ‘New Observations upon the Structure and Formation of Certain Nervous Centres,’ 1864. 5. ‘The Liver,’ 1889.

[Information from Mr. Peyton Todd Bowman Beale, F.R.C.S., and Miss Sophia Beale; Lancet, 7 April 1906 (with portrait from photograph) and 16 Oct. 1909; Brit. Med. Journal, 7 April 1906; Index Catalogue, Surgeon General's Office, Washington; Beale's own books; Proc. Roy. Soc., 1907, 77 B.]

E. M. B.